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Explainer: Egypt cancels Kevin Hart’s show after ‘Black Egyptians’ reference

Hart was criticized on Egyptian social media for comments he allegedly made asserting that ancient Egyptians were black.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 23: Kevin Hart attends the Los Angeles premiere of Netflix's "Me Time" at Regency Village Theatre on August 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

American comedian Kevin Hart’s would-be first performance in Egypt was canceled this week. The decision follows backlash Hart received for comments he allegedly made on the racial composition of ancient Egyptians. 

Background: Hart was due to perform in Cairo Tuesday. The Egyptian talent agency R Productions released a statement on Facebook the day prior saying the show had been canceled due to “local logistical issues.” 

The decision followed comments Hart reportedly made in December that referred to ancient Egyptians as Black people. 

“We must teach our children the true history of Black Africans when they were kings in Egypt and not just the era of slavery that is cemented by education in America. Do you remember the time when we were kings,” reportedly said Hart, who is Black. 

The comments have been widely attributed to Hart, but there is no definitive evidence Hart made them. 

The race of ancient Egyptians has been the subject of debate for decades. The theory that ancient Egyptians were Black was pioneered by Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop in the 20th century. 

Some modern scholars have cautioned against using modern-day racial categories in reference to ancient Egypt. 

Ethnicity and race are nearly synonymous in common usage, and as a result, both Egyptologists and other scholars have attempted to match ancient Egyptian ethnic characterizations to modern racial categories,” wrote Egyptologist Stuart Tyson Smith in the 2007 book "The Egyptian World." “It is important, however, to keep in mind that they are not the same concept. Unlike ethnicity, race is a modern construct.” 

Smith wrote that there were multiple ethnic groups in ancient Egypt, including dark-skinned Nubians and relatively lighter-skinned Egyptians and Libyans, among others. 

“Egyptologists have been strangely reluctant to admit that the ancient Egyptians were rather dark-skinned Africans,” said Smith in a 2020 digital lecture at Harvard University. 

Reactions: Hart’s alleged comments elicited a strong backlash on Egyptian social media in the weeks leading up to the show, and #CancelKevinHart trended on Twitter in English and Arabic. Some people who used the hashtag posted racially-charged content directed at Black Africans. 


Many Egyptian Twitter users rejoiced at the news the show was canceled. 



Know more: The race of ancient Egypt is a divisive issue. Hollywood has been criticized for using white actors in its depiction of the civilization. Many modern observers of Egypt tend to define the country as part of the Middle East as opposed to the African continent.

Egyptians predominantly but not exclusively identify as Arab today. The Muslim conquest of Egypt brought the Arabic language to Egypt in the seventh century.

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