A few days ago I completed a particularly distasteful task of reading a book that defended American slavery based on "biblical" evidence and opinion considered to be factual. Trying to read the interminable 590 page tract from a point of neutrality never was a consideration. I expected to read a long list of apologetics, justifications and excuses for the enslavement of other human beings and I was not disappointed.

Although the book attempts to establish a certain degree of scholarly acumen, it is mired in biblical biology, superstition and interpretation that make the ownership of entire families of slaves not only acceptable, but judicial by designating it as an imperial command from God, the judge, jury and executioner. From today's vantage point, the book is one long and absurd justification of slave trafficking, but in 1850 it probably helped slave owners hold even more tightly to what they considered their "rightly possessions."

The book’s title, "Bible Defence of Slavery Or the Origins, History, and Fortunes of the Negro Race As Deduced from History, both Sacred and Profane, Their Natural Relations--Moral, Mental, and Physical--to the Other Races of Mankind, Compared and Illustrated--Their Future Destiny Predicted, Etc." written by Josiah Priest in 1851, is a mixture of clouded logic, superstition and delusion. For me, it was little more than a profane and slanderous recitation of ignorance of science, superstition and racial arrogance.

For instance, in the Bible Adam and Eve are parents to all mankind, but not in the author's interpretation. According to the author, there was only one race and Negroes were the offspring of Ham, Noah's black son. Priest claims that until then all of the children of Adam and Eve were "red" or the "hue" of copper. Somehow and for some reason God decides that one of Noah's sons would be white and one white. So, Noah and his wife are the mother and father of mankind as the rest of all living things would die in the great flood. This idea finds mention more than once, according to the author who also claims that Jesus, although born of a Hebrew or "red" mother, was white.

There many opportunities for laughter in the book, but I couldn't bring even a smile to my face despite the utter silliness and crackpot nature of its writer. priest gained some notoriety as a writer during the first half of the 19th century. Although he possessed no formal education, Priest passed himself off as an authority on a variety of subjects, including biblical exegesis and biology. In fact, he earned dubious distinction as one of the creators of pseudoscientific literature.

Priest' depiction of slavery as God's will and judicial covenant run through out the book as recurrent themes. As I read each page of overt racism and Godly justification of the human holocaust known as slavery, I couldn't help thinking of distant ancestors and relatives that I never knew who suffered because of avarice and execrations. The few, I knew were old and shared what they could with a young boy during the end of Jim Crow. As repugnant as I found the book, as an African American, it brought a subject that met my consideration numerous times and that is, the apparent affinity the black community has with a religion used to enslave.

I guess that is another topic altogether, but the use of the Bible to enslave African men and women is readily apparent in Priest's racist bilge. Nevertheless, for those unfamiliar with one of the most despicable and horrific acts ever envisioned and acted out, Priest's book provides a glimpse of the mentality used to justify the bondage of other human beings.

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Tags: Hebrews, Priest, Slavery, bible, bondage, justification, owners

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 7, 2012 at 7:31am
The book is highly repititious in trying to make blacks inferior. Although the Bible specifically staes that mankind is directly descended from Adam and Eve if taken literally, the book tries to say that blacks are not. Rev. Priest (clever name) contendeds that God in his infinite wisdom changed the color of the children in Noah's wife's womb making one white and the other black. He also contends that the Hebrews were all "red" or "copper" colored people, so this was a break as there were no whites or blacks--just reds. Still with me. He also says that Ham worked alonside of his brothers in constructing the arc. Just as Joseph, Noah was cuckolded by the Holy Spirit. It gets better or worse depending upon your point of view. Not content to let that portion slide, the author says that black people were not of Adam and Eve but survivors of the flood. Say what? Yes, survivors of the flood. There were no survivors. Not according to Priest. These survivors went to high ground and ate animal carcasses as they floated past. I'm thinking, I must have the incorrect version of the Bible because my Bibles make it cleared that God was pissed and killed not only everybody, but everything. It gets more bizarre in committing another human being to eternal slavery. It wasn't punishment, it was just the way God wanted it. The God guy is indeed mysterious. Of course, now that the world has dried up we go directly to Cain and Abel. No need to retell the story except for one portion and that is Cain is banished and goes to the city where he is a castout. STOP! Whay city? Everything was destroyed. Was it a city of his brothers and sisters? There were only three woman who would have been prodiguous in baby production to make even a city of 100. I'll mention this one thing and drop it. Trying to be scientific, Priest notes one difference between white men and black men was that black men had thousands of miniscule cups of water beneath their skin. With that, I leave saying that if it weren't for the disparagement of humanity and its ultimate goal, this book would be hilarious.
Comment by Michael Brice on November 5, 2012 at 6:10pm

Wow....you read it all, I couldn't do it.

I downloaded it a few days ago, I read parts of as many chapters as I could, it basically boils down to - it's ok to enslave africans 'cause god say so - and by the way, here is 590 pages of god's proof.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on November 4, 2012 at 11:12pm

Donald,  what hope is there for improving our ethics without exposing our past and the beliefs which inform our behavior? Christianity is an affront to everyone who is not a dense white male. And yet the oppressed continue to be devout and to broadcast the greatest whopper ever, that religion equals morality. Sucker born every day comes to mind.

That must have been a little awful finishing that book. And it must have added just a bit more cynicism to your outlook. But on the bright side you persevered where a mere mortal would capitulate.

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