Yosef Alfredo Antonio ben-Jochannan affectionately known as “Dr. Ben” was born on December 31, 1918, to a Puerto Rican mother Julia Matta and an Ethiopian father Kriston ben-Jochannan in what is known as the “Falasha” Hebrew community in Gondar, Ethiopia. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to St. Croix, Virgin Islands where he grew up as an only child. Ben-Jochannan attended the Christian Stead School in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. He enjoyed playing cricket and working on his uncle’s sugar cane farm.
After graduation from high school in 1934, ben-Jochannan attended the University of Puerto Rico where, in 1938, he received a B.S. degree in civil engineering. During that summer, ben-Jochannan’s father sent him to Ethiopia to study firsthand the ancient history of African people. He returned home and received a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Havana in 1939. Ben-Jochannan holds Ph.D. degrees in cultural anthropology and Moorish history from the University of Havana and the University of Barcelona. He is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Arabic. He can read Greek and hieroglyphics.
Ben-Jochannan came to the United States in the early 1940s. He found work as a draftsman and continued his studies. He began leading educational tours to Egypt in 1947 and these tours would span decades.
Ben-Jochannan’s teaching career began in 1950 at Malcolm King College then City College in New York City. He would become an adjunct professor at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, for over a decade (1976–1987). He has written and published over 49 books and papers, revealing much of the information unearthed while he was in Egypt. Two of his better known works include, Black Man of the Nile and His Family and Africa: Mother of Major Western Religions.
Ben-Jochannan lives in Harlem, New York with his wife, Gertrude.