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.