From Pulpits to Presidents!
“White folks, not all of them, but many of our oppressors messed up. They kept us out of school, out of political office, and out of good jobs. But they made a tactical mistake; they let us go to church! They let us meet Jesus!”
– The Late Dr. Manuel Scott Sr.
The Black Church and Black Preacher brought us from a mighty long way! These proclaimers of the Gospel developed a Black Hermeneutic, or biblical interpretation that nullified the Slave Bible. Oh, you didn’t know there was a Slave Bible? The History Channel’s website captures the essence of its function.
“When slavery was legal, its proponents often justified it with the Bible
; specifically, a verse that tells servants to obey their masters. There were also a lot of verses that abolitionists could and did use to argue against slavery. But you wouldn’t find those in the heavily-redacted “Slave Bible.”
Most of the Old Testament is missing, and only about half of the New Testament remains. The reason? So that the enslaved Africans in the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Barbados, and Antigua couldn’t read or be read anything that might incite them to rebel.
The Slave Bible was actually titled Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands.”
Anyone who frequents the Old Testament liberation stories is well acquainted with the Israelites’ plight, flight, and fight. God sent them fresh manna and quail by day and fire by night. But in much the same way, God sent the Black preacher to the African captives who found themselves in the most severe form and record of chattel slavery.
We supported and compensated our preachers so that they could be fiercely independent. Black men as recently as the 1960s felt forced to hide their Cadillac from their White bosses and peers. Our grandmothers fulfilled wealthy White women’s “duties” during the week and looked more prosperous than their employers looked on “any given Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Black preachers were able to say what their congregants could not say. And say it poetically. They parlayed their biblical interpretation with well-placed poetry, politics, and passion! In our Freedom Diary, the Black Preacher is the only second in significance to the Black Church.
Black pulpiteers imbued us with consciousness and confidence. Contemporaneously, Black preachments fueled by prose and poetry, promoted scholarship as the standard of personal and communal progress. For generations, the only educated Blacks we knew were preachers and teachers. They made us!
You can parse it however you like, but the word on the street is that Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr. paved a road that led from his pulpit to Pennsylvania Avenue. “Obama” may have been another peculiar African surname without “Daddy J!” Dr. Wright fed him, wed him, prepared him, and declared him. The “Obama’s Strut” comes from a place in his soul! Black preachers give you something that no racist or birther can ever take from you.
This misuse of Jesus and the Bible did not stop with American slavery. Former Kenyan Prime Minister left us this invaluable caveat. “When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land, and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land, and we had the Bible.”
Dr. Scott was right. White folks who wanted to keep us in bondage messed up when they took everything but Jesus from us. Black preachers held their interpretation of Jesus up as an all-purpose standard. Black historians should never take their labor lightly.
“The Word” like Black Lives…Matter!!