12 Apr 2023

Where Do Black People Come From? White Christianity & Slave Indoctrination

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Black History, Books, Church History, Contemporary Ethics, Frederick Douglass, Race Relations, Slavery

Where Do Black People Come From? What Slaves were Taught in America

Do you know who J. D. Green was? Probably not. Green was a three time escapee slave from Kentucky. He was born approximately 1813 and was raised with 181 other slaves on the property of Judge Charles Earle. His mother was sold away from him as a child. When a white boy stole something from him, he defended himself. An adult white male intervened on behalf of the thief and proceeded to beat Green mercilessly. He was told if he ever hit a white person again his hands would be cut off. Green testified that the experience fueled an almost hate in his heart. And he escaped but was captured. He ended up having a “wife” who caught the eye of the “master.” As was his privilege, he could rape her anytime he wished. She would have two children. In 1848, the “master” died. The “master’s” widow decided to rid the place of all the slave women who had been intimate with her husband and while Green was working in the field his wife (and the two children? his or the “master’s?”) was sold without so much as a word to him. He was enraged. He escaped for the third time and with the help of the Underground Railroad made it to Toronto, Canada.

Green would publish a narrative called The Narrative of J. D. Green, a Runaway Slave, from Kentucky, Containing An Account of his Three Escapes in 1839, 1846 and 1848. It is a fascinating and harrowing at the same time. Green proves to be creative at besting slavery and surviving.

One portion of the book especially grabbed me. It is when he reflects on the stealing of his mother and he reveals what Christians told black slaves. It reveals the horrific state of “Christianity” and explains so much about American history. Ears to Hear. In the story Green begins by asking himself a question and reflects on the religious instruction he learned from the “master.”

Why was I born black? It would have been better had I not been born at all. Only yesterday, my mother was sold to go to, not one of us knows where, and I am left alone, and I have no hope of seeing her again. At this moment a raven alighted on a tree over my head, and I cried, ‘Oh, Raven! if I had wings like you. I would soon find my mother and be happy again.’ Before parting she [i.e. Mother] advised me to be a good boy and she would pray for me, and I must pray for her, and hoped we might meet again in heaven, and I at once commenced to pray, to the best of my knowledge, ‘Our Father art in heaven, be Thy name, kingdom come. – Amen.’ But, at this time, words of my master obtruded into my mind that God did not care for black folks, as he did not make them, but the devil did. Then I though of the old saying amongst us, as stated by our master, that, when God was making man, He made white man out of the best clay, as potters make china, and the devil was watching, and he immediately took some black mud and made a black man, and called him a N****R.” [I have partially omitted the last offensive term].

White Supremacy is on full and unapologetic display here beloved. After the Civil War, white Christians often did embrace the theory of evolution to explain Blacks. They are not really human. And as you can see in the quote above before the Civil War, it was not uncommon to see Christians teach that God did not make Blacks, the devil did.

The social consequences of this theology have been immense. We are still living with it to this very hour in 2023. You can treat them as an animal because in your view they are soulless animals. Black Life did not Matter.

Now, frankly, what this also says about the degraded slave owners who routinely did to slave women what was done to Green’s wife is telling indeed. What does such teaching do to the person receiving it? Read again the beginning of Green’s words.

When people talk about “Christian America” this was typically the Christianity that was fed to slaves. This quote sums up slavery, “redemption,” Jim Crow, lynchings, the blood of Martin, and George Floyd. It is in this context of Green that we need to hear, perhaps for the first time, Frederick Douglass’s stinging rejection of what he called slave holding Christianity. It simply was not Christianity no matter how many church buildings there were.

This theology did not magically disappear when Robert E. Lee surrendered. In fact it went nowhere. It remains.

May God Have Mercy

Of Related Interest:

Racist Theology Begets Racist Preaching: A Sermonic Response to Brown v. Board of Education

September 23, 1667, A Day of Infamy: Trading Baptism for Slavery

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