Are Black People Cursed? An Analysis of the Use of “Ham’s Curse” as a Justification for African Slavery

Are black people cursed? The question was raised this Sunday as our church concluded its first part of a three part series on racial reconciliation. What about “The Curse of Ham?” What about the white Southerners that used the story in Genesis 9 as a justification for slavery? I was asked to do some digging that we might appropriately respond to this question. Here are my results and conclusions:

The “Curse of Ham” comes a story from Genesis 9, where Noah, after surviving the flood, gets drunk and lays naked in his tent (quote shocking, I must agree, for the righteous man who just watched God unleash his wrath upon the world and save his family). One of Noah’s three sons, Ham, sees his father naked and tells his two brothers, Shem and Japheth . Since Ham’s actions are considered sinful enough to receive a curse, we must assume that he shared this information that was in some way dishonoring to his father. Contrary to Ham, Shem and Japheth honorably drape a garment over their father without looking at him. When Noah wakes up, he places a curse on Ham’s son, Canaan: “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers” (Gen. 9:24-25) for his dishonorable act. He goes on: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth…and let Canaan be his servant” (Gen. 9:26-27).

Continue reading