In earliest colonial times, white supremacy, racism, and bigotry were conjoined to justify the enslavement of the entire Negro race. Even the Bible was enlisted to “justify” the permanent enslavement of dark-skinned people, although this was based more on speculation than fact.
To explain the variety of skin colors, “Christian” scholars postulated that each of Noah’s sons was of different skin color, Ham was dark-skinned, Shem had a medium complexion, and Japeth was light-skinned. Ham was the youngest son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan, who are said to have populated Africa and adjoining parts of Asia. The Bible refers to Egypt as “the land of Ham” in Psalms 78:51 and there is also reference to “the curse of Ham.” This is usually attributed to Ham’s having seen his father naked in a drunken stupor, although the “curse” fell on Ham’s son Canaan. To an objective modern reader, that is rather preposterous!
Perhaps this is why “religious” people have developed a wide range of interpretations. In fact, although initially slavery existed in all thirteen colonies, many major Protestant denominations in the United States split over the issue of slavery and by the time of the Civil War it had disappeared from the North. Originally slavery existed in all thirteen colonies.
Bloodlines are even more tricky. The children Thomas Jefferson had with Sally Hemming, his deceased wife’s half-sister, were seven-eighths European, and three of the four “passed” for white, as could Sally herself. In fact, many families have both “black” and “while” branches. Small wonder, since Southern planters frequently took “fancy girls,” or concubines, whose offspring were Mullatoes. Of course, they took any female slave they fancied at any time. In colonial times, the “color line” had to be drawn widely and carefully so as not to exclude too many members of “the best” families. Only later would the South devolve to the “one-drop” rule.
It is yet another irony that acquiring a sun tan, either at the beach or in a tanning salon, is fashionable, even though “one drop of black” blood made one a second-class citizen from a degraded caste throughout the South. This prejudice generally extended to the North as well; it is seldom remembered that President Obama’s mother was white, and that he was raised largely by white grandparents.
In November 1959, journalist John Howard Griffin darkened his pigmentation and traveled through the South as a black male, immediately “cast on the junk-heap of second-class citizenship.” The Saturday Review judged his resulting best seller, Black Like Me, a “scathing indictment of our society.”
White supremacy seems to be related to the kind of tribalism that has plunged mankind into nearly unending wars. Really, isn’t it time for humanity to get a little more sophisticated?
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The above is drawn largely from my Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid, African Americans’ 400 Years in North America, 1619-2019.
I am selling hardbound copies for $10 because I believe that in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, every American should be aware of our sordid past. The book costs nearly $35 on Amazon; they make excellent Christmas gifts for family and friends.
In the two years since that book was published, I have continued my research and written a superior study, African Americans in American History, 1526 – Present. I’ve also written a children’s book, which given how much Americans like to read about history, could have far greater impact.
I’m looking for a publisher for both. Although all five professional reviews of Collective Amnesia have praised the book highly, The New York Times and the Washington Post do not review self-published books. That does not help book sales.