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Noah's Curse : The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (Religion in America Series) [Hardcover]

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Item Number 160181  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   322
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.48" Width: 6.42" Height: 1"
Weight:   1.35 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 28, 2002
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195142799  
EAN  9780195142792  

Availability  139 units.
Availability accurate as of Jan 19, 2018 04:38.
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Item Description...
A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. So reads Noah's curse on his son Ham, and all his descendants, in Genesis 9:25. Over centuries of interpretation, Ham came to be identified as the ancestor of black Africans, and Noah's curse to be seen as the biblical justification for American slavery and segregation. In this book, Stephen Haynes examines the history of the American interpretation of Noah's curse. He begins with an overview of the prior history of the reception of this scripture and then turns to the distinctive and creative ways in which the curse was appropriated by American pro-slavery and pro-segregation interpreters. He argues that the story of Noah's curse was compelling for antebellum white Southerners because it resonated with the themes of antiquity, domesticity, race, and sin.

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More About Stephen R. Haynes

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Stephen R. Haynes holds the A.B. Curry Chair of Religious Studies at Rhodes College, where he has taught since 1989. His publications include Reluctant Witnesses: Jews and the Christian Imagination (1995) and, as co-editor, To Each its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application (1993)

Stephen R. Ed Haynes has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Religion in America

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1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 19th Century > Antebellum   [282  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Why care about Noah?  Nov 15, 2009
The Old Testament has never been of much interest to me either theological or literary. Perhaps being able to read this book is one reason I rate it with four stars. There are faults with this work, not the least of which is the author's over use of quotations. He points out many interesting writers on the subject, but comes short in discussing the varied views they represent. He does offer the point that Noah's curse on his son has a place in the proslavery literature in America. He presents us with many quotations of many authors without informing us of the acceptance or rejection of these beliefs by the layity.

One of the most interesting people he presents is Josiah Priest, "a New Yorker known for his frontier adventure stories, Indian captivity narratives, and `true' tales of the Revolutionary War. [page 42]...whose Slavery as It Relates to the Negro or African Race (1843) was widely read before the Civil War [page 69]." The statement of Priest's position in the authorities of the slavery movement tkes the author 47 pages. For someone unacquainted with Josiah Priest this is a long delay. ( This very influential book is available in a reprint from this site.) Bishop John Hopkins of Vermont is also cited on page 75 but the author again neglects to place him in perspective of the 19th century crisis. The modern scholar Bertram Wyatt Brown is cited by the author 10 times in relation to part sSouthern honor played in the interpretation of Noah's curse. He should have spent more time on contemporary authors if he wanted to show the place of this scripture in the 1800's.

Benjamin M. Palmer, a 19th century cleric, ranks very high with the author; Palmer is considered from page 125 to 174. Perhaps my problem with this book is that the author tries to make a book out of the handling of Noah's curse on Ham and the tenuous connection of it with American slavery. If you are interested in the curse itself or in Noah or the Old Testament then you will rpbably enjoy this book.

If I were not interested in the place of religion in the justification of slavery I would not have bought it. Upon reflection I can't say it was a good buy. Personal prejudice creeps in here. I don not believe that Noah ever existed, that there was ever a curse on poor Ham because he had sex with his mother, or that it would make any difference it this all took place. I am more interested in the effect these writings had on the populace of the time. If the reader's main interest is in the life of Noah or Ham this is probable a good buy.
There is no Biblical justification of black slavery - this book is a fraud  Nov 10, 2009
"Noah's Curse - The Midrash and Maimonides' Justification of American Slavery" --now that would be an accurate title for a book on the theme of sacred texts that support black chattel slavery in the U.S.

In the Biblical story of Noah, the Bible is absolutely color blind. It was the rabbinic texts that added a racial identification. No Biblical text does so.

The Southern "Christians" who validated black slavery on the alleged basis of the "Biblical account of Noah" were conversant with certain Protestants' esteem for Maimonides and rabbinic texts. This is how the contagion came to infect American Christianity.

Without rabbinic interpolation of the book of Genesis there would be no alleged "Biblical basis" for black slavery over any other kind. Only those Protestants who credited the rabbis and their exegesis could uphold the fraud that Ham was a black man.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides in his "Guide of the Perplexed," in the uncensored Shlomo Pines translation, decreed that Africans are sub-human -- midway between animals and humans.

This book is an exercize in misdirection.
Interesting overview of the subject  Jan 10, 2009
I liked this book overall. It's an interesting bit of analysis on the issue. The author is a religious scholar, though, not a political historian. The analysis is very good, but there's not a great deal of discussion about how the South used the "curse" to justify slavery. That information is there, just not in as great a depth as possible. A nice addition to the study of religion and slavery, however.
History repeats itself..  Dec 13, 2008
"History repeats itself", someone said. Humankind keeps repeating the same mistakes over and over, and seems never to learn any lesson. We witness abuse, violence, war, and sacrifice almost on a daily basis, and we do not even realize that our senses are immersed in a secular slumber, a state of semi-hypnotic condition, that refrains us from seeing clearly the true nature of things; homicides, genocides, and horrific principles such as Slavery, have catalyzed - and still are catalyzing - the lives of millions around the world, becoming in some cases, socially accepted behaviors. Fortunately for us, courageous authors, writers, and scholars, attempt to lift humanity to a higher level of consciousness, by inquiring on the reasons behind the occurrence of such horrible and questionable acts; by publishing their works, they aim to unveil the mysterious motives that may have caused those terrible outcomes, and more importantly, reach for new readers, so that to propagate a sense of general awareness among the current and the next generations, preventing those events from happening again.
Stephen R. Haynes, Ph.D, is one of them: he focuses on the history of United States of America, and seeks to find a justification to American Slavery with his book "Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification to American Slavery". His work sapiently elucidates through a very extensive anthropological and historical analysis, how the Holy Bible has heavily contributed to the formation and continuation of the American social fabric, particularly in the Southern states of the Union; there, intellectuals, proprietors of lands, entrepreneurs, and simple citizens, relied on the scripts of the Bible - through their spiritual leaders and the clergy -, to create a religious rationale for slavery, racism, segregation, and secession from the Northern states. The key arguments of the book in actuality, are based on the centrality of the singular and biased interpretation of the paragraphs of Genesis 9-11 and 9-25 on behalf of the Southern religious congregations, whose most famous exponent was Benjamin M. Palmer, father founder of the Southern Presbyterian Church. The Bible's paragraph 9-11 treats of dispersion and segregation of the peoples on earth and racial differentiation, as supposedly conceived and designed by God. Paragraph 9-25 instead, relates to the overly famous curse that Noah throws to one of his three sons, Ham -who has disrespected and dishonored him - as an explanation and a justification for racial slavery. In fact, Ham casually views his father's nudity and derides him in front of his brothers, Shem and Japheth, who instead, remaining loyal to their father cover him with a blanket. Noah will curse Ham and all his descendants - biblically the "African Race", based on Genesis 9-11 -, condemning them to perpetual slavery to the progenies of the brothers, ergo, the rest of the population of the world.
As abovementioned, Haynes argues that these significant passages represent the foundation of the Southern religious thought, along with the legend of Ham's descendant Nimrod (Gen. 10: 6-10), and the Tower of Babel story (Gen. 11:1-10). From these sections of the Bible, Nimrod emerges as a rebel to the word and the sacred unquestionable teachings of God, an expansionist, a vain idolater and the precursor of tyranny, the symbol of human race's darker side; the writer explores tirelessly the numerous and variegate ways in which the Bible was read by American proslavery apologists, with reference to the same fundamental thesis of "Order and Disorder", which were truly sensitive values still, espoused in the Southern states. He comes to the conclusion that for these and other reasons, Nimrod and his descendants will be associated with "blackness", a synonym for impurity, lust, dishonor and disorder, and as such, inclined to disobey God and His laws. These components would eventually epitomize the rationale behind the intellectual and racial inferiority of the Africans, and support the cause for their subordination on behalf of the "superior white Christians".
Interestingly, the author emphasizes with outstanding accuracy how these concepts were initially adopted by the first devout Christian scholars, and then escalated throughout centuries of human history, particularly in chapter three of the book, (Unauthorized Biography-The Legend of
Nimrod and His Tower, 41-61), and later in chapter six, (The Grandson of Disorder-Nimrod Comes to America, 105-121); there, Haynes accompanies the readers in a ideal maritime journey that touches the havens of Jewish and Christian diverse interpretations through the Middle Ages, Reformation and Renaissance, and Eighteen and Nineteen Centuries. Fascinatingly, during these phases of history, the themes that shaped the ideological contribution that later led to the engagement in the activity of Slavery of the African Race, appear to be progressively tangible and evident.
A significant part of the book however, is dedicated to the figure of Benjamin M. Palmer, a proslavery intellectual and leader in the southern Presbyterian Church from the 1850s until his death in 1902. Haynes provides facts and references on the life of this individual, whose endeavors twisted irreparably the minds of the Southern people. Palmer's speeches were able to attract thousands of viewers, and become legendary. "National Responsibility Before God", delivered in New Orleans in 1861 and strongly endorsed by the Government of Louisiana, is one of them, in which Palmer makes a very strong case for Slavery and Segregation by referring to the testament of the Sacred Scriptures. More importantly, Palmer accentuates the uniqueness of the God-given mission of the White Christians to prosper, expand their territories - as direct descendants of Noah's son, Japheth -, and perpetuate the state of servitude of Ham's progenies.
Interestingly, the use of verbs such as "prosper and expand" represent the true leitmotif behind the institution of Slavery, a motive that was never acknowledged by the Southern supporters. Slavery guaranteed the supply of labor at no-cost whatsoever and rich plantations' owners subtly sheltered in the aforementioned religious rationale to justify it and motivate its preservation.
Haynes portrays Palmer at times as a living paradox, because of his remarkable and chameleonic ability to adapt his interpretation of the Bible to the different moments of American history. Whether to advocate slavery or secession Palmer acts as an apostle towards his congregation and his proselytes, providing an appropriate version depending on the cause to defend. Curiously, the author also attempts to draw a psychological profile of Palmer based on his biography (159), where the conflicted relationship with his father seem to have impinged on the aggressive bias that conditioned Palmer's view of Noah's prophecy; in actuality however, although Haynes' argument potentially carries some hints of veracity and tends to offer an interesting reading key to better comprehend Palmer's perspectives, we should recognize that it is probably dictated by the author's basic disapproval of his ideas; it amounts to a brief, succinct and non-scientific analysis that essentially cannot be proved.
Nevertheless, the book is particularly appreciable and represents an amazing source of information, if not for the extensive work of research, at least for the endless list of references to other texts and the Bible itself, which amounts to almost thirty percent of the whole volume. In fact, Haynes repeatedly includes references to the efforts of other scholars, such as Eugene Genovese, and quotes citations from other proslavery writers of the past centuries, such as Christopher Memminger and Michael P. Johnston (79); astonishingly, Memminger explained in 1835 that "the slavery institution dignifies the family, because each planter is a patriarch" (like Noah, who was attempting to re-establish order in the world after the deluge). He was then echoed by Johnston, who suggested that "the reciprocal parent-child obligations and affections of the plantation household gave meaning to those involved". In essence, Haynes helps us understand that according to the southern intellectuals, the institution of slavery was sacred because it was synonym of social order and stability, and both the master and slave benefited from it.
On the other hand, although Haynes' approach certainly attests the diligent and profound dedication invested in the development of this extraordinary work, it is somewhat observable that the unprepared reader - or at least that who does not regularly enjoy the pace and the structure of similar academic tomes - might face a few difficulties with his writing style; in fact, the majority of the passages of the book continuously refer to other texts, so that the reader is compelled to consult with notes and bibliography, with the result of losing the harmony and the flow of Haynes discourse.
Overall, Stephen Haynes, who is an associate professor holding a Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from Emory University, an M.A. from Florida State University, and a B.A. from Vanderbilt University, has produced an amazing book, whose philosophical and social impact on the minds of readers cannot be neglected; it is in fact one of the recommendations, evidenced in his conclusion (220), that the we all should be aware of the intertwined nature of Religion and Society, and he argues that many in the past have failed to include the importance of the religious influence exerted on the development of racial prejudice. As an example, the author cites "The Anatomy of Prejudices", by Elisabeth Young -Bruehl, where psychoanalysis is instrumental in defining racism as a form of hysterical prejudice based on repressed sexual desires. In essence, Haynes claims that this book lacks of any "attention to the beliefs and tradition transmitted by religious communities". To support that, he provides an invaluable amount of evidence that in his words could be used to "incriminate Jews and Christians alike", and concludes inviting both scholars and readers to consider Religion as a critical and crucial - if not fundamental - catalyst of Social Behavior.
In conclusion, "Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery" can be easily defined as an amazing work, for both its staggering and captivating content, and ability to attract the readers into a fabulous journey of religious and cultural exploration, throughout the most salient phases of human history. It's a tremendous informative instrument, and provides a valid opportunity to comprehend the reasons that have led to the endorsement of Slavery in America. More importantly though, it is also evident that it is a powerful text with a strong social message: a subtle but resolute wish to generate general awareness in the world, in order to avoid, or more possibly limit, the repetition of analogous atrocious mistakes on behalf of humankind.

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