Famous Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci Celebrated in a New Series of Stamps

No special occasion is required to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci, but the fact that he died in 1519 makes this year a particularly suitable time to look back at his vast, innovative, and influential body of work. Just last month, "Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing" opened in twelve museums across the United Kingdom. "144 of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection are displayed in 12 simultaneous exhibitions across the UK," says the exhibition's site, with each venue's drawings "selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo's interests – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany."

The Royal Collection Trust, writes Artnet's Sarah Cascone, has even "sent a dozen drawings from Windsor Castle to each of the 12 participating institutions." They'd previously been in Windsor Castle's Print Room, the home of a collection of old master prints and drawings routinely described as one of the finest in the world.

Now displayed at institutions like Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery, Sheffield's Millennium Gallery, Belfast's Ulster Museum, and Cardiff's National Museum Wales, this selection of Leonardo's drawings will be much more accessible to the public during the exhibition than before.

But the Royal Mail has made sure that the drawings will be even more widely seen, doing its part for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death by issuing them in stamp form.

"The stamps depict several well-known works," writes Artnet's Kate Brown, "such as The skull sectioned (1489) and The head of Leda (1505–08), a study for his eventual painting of the myth of Leda, the queen of Sparta, which was the most valuable work in Leonardo’s estate when he died and was apparently destroyed around 1700. Other stamps show the artist’s studies of skeletons, joints, and cats."

While none of these images enjoy quite the cultural profile of a Vitruvian Man, let alone a Mona Lisa, they all show that whatever Leonardo drew, he drew it in a way revealing that he saw it like no one else did (possibly due in part, as we've previously posted about here on Open Culture, to an eye disorder).

Though that may come across more clearly at the scale of the originals than at the scale of postage stamps, even a glimpse at the intellectually boundless Renaissance polymath's drawings compressed into 21-by-24-millimeter squares will surely be enough to draw many into his still-inspirational artistic and scientific world. To the intrigued, may we suggest plunging into his 570 pages of notebooks?

Note: If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, consider attending the new course--The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci: A 500th Anniversary Celebration--being offered through Stanford Continuing Studies. Registration opens on February 25. The class runs from April 16 through June 4.

via Colossal/Artnet

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

800 Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts Are Now Online: Browse & Download Them Courtesy of the British Library and Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Buried Giant begins with an immersive depiction of what it might have been like to live in a European village during the middle ages. Or what it might feel like for us moderns, at least. The couple at the center of the story spends several pages fretting over the loss of a candle, their only one. Without it, their nights are pitch black. In the day, they wander in a fog, unable to remember anything. Though the cause of this turns out to be dark magic, one can’t help thinking that a smartphone would immediately solve all their problems.

This was a time not only before mobile video, but when images of any kind were scarce, when every book was painstakingly copied by hand in careful, elegant script. Many of those rare, scribal copies were not illustrated, they were “illuminated.” Their pages shone out into the darkness and fog. Most of the population could not read them, but they could, in rare instances when they might catch a glimpse, be deeply moved by the colorful, stylized images and lettering.

For the intellectual classes, illumination constituted a language of its own, framing and interpreting medical, classical, and legal texts, gospels and works by the church fathers. Not all books received this treatment but the “most luxurious,” notes the British Library, were “literally ‘lit up’ by decorations and pictures in brightly coloured pigments and burnished gold leaf.” For centuries, despite the explosion of image-making technologies of every kind, most of us, unless we were scholars or aristocrats, were in the same position vis-à-vis these stunning artifacts as the average medieval peasant. Medieval manuscripts were locked away in rare book rooms and seen by very few.

The situation has changed dramatically as libraries digitize their holdings. Last November, hundreds more rare, valuable medieval manuscripts became available to everyone when the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France launched a joint project, making “800 manuscripts decorated before the year 1200 available freely” online, as the BL blog announced in 2016. Both institutions provided 400 manuscripts each for digitization. Some of these are currently on display at the wildly popular, sold-out British Library exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War. Now they are also virtual public property, as it were, thanks to a grant from the Polonsky Foundation.

That these fragile artifacts have been so inaccessible, kept under glass and well away from insects, thieves, and vandals, now means they are in a condition to be digitally copied and uploaded in high resolution for close viewing, comparison, and careful study. Medievalists.net describes the complementary websites the two libraries have launched:

The first, France-England: medieval manuscripts between 700 and 1200, has been created by the Bibliothèque nationale de France based on the Gallica marque blanche infrastructure, using the IIIF standard and Mirador viewer to make the images held by the different institutions interoperable and enable them to be compared side-by-side within the same digital library or annotated. The second website, Medieval England and France, 700-1200, is aimed at a wider public audience, and has been developed by the British Library to showcase a selection of manuscripts as well as articles, essays and video clips.

The French site has ports of entry according to theme, author, place, and century, and many links to resources for scholars. The British Library site features curated selections, introduced by accessible articles. Laypeople with little experience studying medieval manuscripts can learn about legal, medical, and musical texts, see how the writings of the church fathers received special attention in monastic culture, and learn how manuscripts circulated before 1200. Those who know what they are looking for can conduct advanced searches at the Medieval Manuscripts site, and download a full list of all 800 manuscripts here.

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Behold 3,000 Digitized Manuscripts from the Bibliotheca Palatina: The Mother of All Medieval Libraries Is Getting Reconstructed Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

When Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons Broke Down Race Barriers on a Historic Episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1969)

Last year’s Fred Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, propelled François Clemmons—better known to generations of Mister Rogers Neighborhood viewers as Officer Clemmons—back into the international spotlight.

One of the most striking anecdotes in the doc concerns a 1969 episode in which Mister Rogers, who was white, invited Officer Clemmons, who is black, to join him in soaking his bare feet in a backyard baby pool on a hot summer’s day.

It was one of those giant leaps for mankind moments that passes itself off as a homey, fairly unremarkable step, though as Clemmons told his friend Karl Lindholm in a StoryCorps interview, Rogers understood the powerful message this gesture would send.

Likewise, his choice of Clemmons to embody a friendly cop for his television neighborhood, a part Clemmons, who played the role for 30 years, was initially hesitant to accept:

Fred came to me and said, “I have this idea, you could be a police officer.” That kind of stopped me in my tracks. I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were sicking police dogs and water hoses on people. And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all.

Rogers, who had met Clemmons in a Pittsburgh area church where the trained opera singer was performing, prevailed, stressing the impact such a positive portrayal of a black authority figure could have on the community.

Officer Clemmons, the first recurring black character on a children’s series, paved the way for the multiracial casts of Sesame Street and The Electric Company, also on PBS.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a song can also pack quite a wallop. It’s hard not to get choked up hearing Clemmons sing “There Are Many Ways to Say I Love You,” above, a tune he reprised in 1993, for his final appearance on the show, below.

Such sentiments are a natural fit in programs aimed at the preschool crowd, whose love of their families is reinforced at every turn, but it’s still unusual to see these feelings articulated so purely when the only people in sight are grown men.

Clemmons learned not to doubt Roger’s sincerity when he said, “I like you just the way you are.”

And Rogers grew to accept his friend’s sexual orientation, though this embrace came a bit less naturally. In an interview with Vanity Fair’s Chris Azzopardi, Clemmons was philosophical, recalling his “surrogate father’s” request to steer clear of gay clubs so as not to endanger the show’s wholesome image:

Sacrifice was a part of my destiny. In other words, I did not want to be a shame to my race. I didn’t want to be a scandal to the show. I didn’t want to hurt the man who was giving me so much, and I also knew the value as a black performer of having this show, this platform. Black actors and actresses—SAG and Equity—90 percent of them are not working. If you know that and here you are, on a national platform you’re gonna sabotage yourself?

I weighed this thing, the pros and the cons. And I thought, I not only have a national platform, I’m getting paid. I was also getting a promotion that I simply could not have afforded to pay for. Every time I did the show, and every time Fred took us across the country to do three, four, five personal appearances, my name was being written into somebody’s heart—some little kid who would grow up and say, “Oh, I remember him, I remember that he could sing, I remember that he was on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I didn’t have the money to pay for that, but I was getting it free. There were so many things that I got back for that sacrifice that I kept my big mouth shut, kept my head down, kept my shoulder to the plough.

Students at Middlebury College, where Clemmons was a long time faculty presence, were well acquainted with the self-proclaimed “Divaman’s”’ flamboyant side:

Clemmons has added color and soul to the Middlebury College scene for nearly 25 years. As Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir, he is known by many names: the divo, the maestro, the reverend, doctor-madam-honey-man, sportin’ life, and even black magic. He has played the role of professor, choirmaster, resident vocal soloist, advisor, confidant, and community cheerleader. Yet his purpose is singular: to share hope through song.

Listen to StoryCorps podcast episode #462 about Mister Rogers’ and Francois Clemmons’ famous foot bath, as well as an incident that took place five years prior where protesters staged a “wade in” at the “Whites Only” pool at St. Augustine, Florida’s Monson Motor Lodge.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City on March 11 as host of  Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Animated Reconstruction of Ancient Rome: Take A 30-Minute Stroll Through the City’s Virtually-Recreated Streets

There are numerous ancient stories illustrating the gargantuan ego of the Emperor Nero. Some of these may rise to the level of historical character assassination. Nero did not, for example, fiddle while Rome burned. For one thing, the fiddle did not exist. For another, as the historian Tacitus records, although the emperor was miles away at his villa in Antium when the fires began, it’s said he returned to Rome and led relief efforts, paying for many of them out of his own pocket and housing the newly homeless in his garden.

But the story may have been rewritten to burnish Nero’s reputation. After the masses blamed him for starting the fire, he turned around and blamed the city’s Christians, Tacitus reports, staging elaborate spectacles of torture, burning, and dismemberment. Suetonius does record him as giving some sort of musical performance during the fires of 64 A.D., a rumor that had apparently taken hold among the people. Whatever part he played, and whatever truth there is to charges that he murdered the son of Claudius, one of his wives, and even his own mother, Nero clearly felt a pressing need to leave a different impression of himself—as a towering, bronze god-like figure nearly 100 feet high.

In the same year as the fires, he commissioned a colossal statue of himself as the sun god, inspired by the Colossus of Rhodes. The massive Nero held a rudder perched atop a globe, suggesting that his rule steered the course of the whole world. Nero killed himself before the statue was completed, but Pliny the Elder writes of seeing its creation in the studio of the sculptor, Zenodorus. It arose towering above his palace, the Domus Aurea, in 72 A.D., and in 127, Hadrian moved it near the Amphitheatrum Flavium, which subsequently became known in the statue’s honor as the Colosseum. It took up to 24 elephants to do the job, or so it’s said.

For the next few hundred years, until at least the sack of Rome by Alaric in 410 and a subsequent series of earthquakes, residents and visitors to the city walked beneath the looming Nero/Helios/Apollo statue, just fifty feet shy of the Statue of Liberty. It was depicted on medallions and gems. Now the statue is completely vanished, with nothing but a remnant of its pedestal remaining. But you can see it reconstructed, along with 27 other ancient Roman monuments, temples, baths, mausoleums, amphitheaters, arenas, etc.—many of them as grandiose and storied as the Colossus—in the thirty-minute video above.

No, it’s not like strolling the streets of ancient Rome. The blockily-rendered CGI recreations appear over contemporary video of the city, full of contemporary traffic and contemporary fashions. As in every historical recreation of antiquity, for which the sources are few and contradictory, we have to use our imaginations. The exercise is infinitely richer the more you learn about the vanished or ruined structures that once dominated the city. See the full list of ancient buildings and sculptures below.

0:10 Palatine Hill (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatin...)

3:25 The Forum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_F...)

5:22 Basilica of Maxentius (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilic...)

7:18 Temple of Vesta (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_...)

7:26 House of the Vestals (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_o...)

7:48 Temple of Castor and Pollux (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_...)

8:03 Temple of Caesar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_...)

8:13 Basilica Aemilia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilic...)

8:40 Basilica Julia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilic...)

9:17 Temple of Saturn (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_...)

10:56 Curia Julia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curia_J...)

12:18 Forum of Augustus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forum_o...)

13:05 Forum of Nerva (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forum_o...)

13:47 Trajan's Forum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan%...)

14:54 Forum of Caesar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forum_o...)

15:29 Colosseum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colosseum)

17:42 Temple of Venus and Roma (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_...)

18:59 Colossus of Nero and Meta Sudans (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossu... -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta_Su...)

19:28 Baths of Caracalla (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baths_o...)

26:39 Pantheon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheo...)

28:13 Stadium of Domitian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stadium...)

29:23 Mausoleum of Augustus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausole...)

29:39 Circus Maximus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circus_...)

30:25 Sacred area (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Largo_d...)

31:21 Theatre of Pompey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre...)

31:56 Theatre of Marcellus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre...)

32:05 Tiber Island (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiber_I...)

32:32 Mausoleum of Hadrian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castel_...)

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

In the 1920s America, Jazz Music Was Considered Harmful to Human Health, the Cause of “Neurasthenia,” “Perpetually Jerking Jaws” & More

These are some interesting stories about the Nazis and jazz, including one about a very bad jazz propaganda band created by Goebbels himself. But we need not mention these at all, or even leave the shores of jazz’s birthplace to find examples of extreme reactions to jazz by authoritarian figures who hated and feared it for exactly the same reasons as the Nazis. Chief among such American enemies of jazz was raging anti-Semite Henry Ford, who feared that jazz was, you guessed it, a Jewish plot to infect the country with racially inferior “musical slush."

Ford used white country music and square dancing in public schools as weapons of warfare against jazz in the 1920s, thereby displacing blackface minstrelsy as the dominant form of paranoid response to black music in middle America. Another crusader, Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics between 1930 and 1962, more or less invented the war on drugs with his reefer madness war on jazz. He said it sounded like “the jungles in the dead of night” and could “lure white women.” Anslinger relentlessly persecuted Billie Holiday and went after Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong.

It was within this early 20th century milieu that other institutional powers—some of the country’s most powerful—declared a war on jazz for supposed reasons of public health. (A movement, incidentally, given to an enthusiasm for eugenics and forced sterilization at the time.) Historian Russell L. Johnson has documented this campaign in the journal Health and History, and Jessie Wright-Mendoza describes many of his findings at JStor Daily.

Milwaukee’s public health commissioner claimed that the music damaged the nervous system, and a Ladies’ Home Journal article reported that it caused brain cells to atrophy. In Cincinnati, a maternity hospital successfully petitioned to have a nearby jazz club shut down, arguing that exposing newborns to the offending music would have the effect of “imperiling the happiness of future generations.”

Jazz was "unrhythmical," opponents argued, and so was disease. Q.E.D. In 1923, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a ruling that shut down a jazz club, citing in their opinion a belief the music “wears upon the nervous system and produces that feeling which we call ‘tired.’” Doctors warned that too much jazz could cause neurasthenia, a catch-all for anxiety, depression, headaches, fatigue, etc. But jazz could also cause patients to become “nervous and fidgety” with “perpetually jerking jaws.” Whatever it did, jazz was hazardous.

Oddly, just as in the Nazi’s fervent attempts to control jazz, as Czech writer Josef Skvorecky once described it, and as in Joseph Goebbels attempts to co-opt the music for white supremacy, the architects of America's jazz panic found the remedy for jazz in jazz. But segregated jazz. They turned “hot jazz” into “sweet jazz,” a style “interpreted by mainly white musicians to appeal to a wider commercial audience.”

It hardly needs to be said that anyone really afflicted with a passion for jazz ignored this prescription, as did every jazz musician worth listening to. Read more about Johnson’s history of the American fear of jazz at JStor Daily.

via Ted Gioia

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The East German Secret Police’s Illustrated Guide for Identifying Youth Subcultures: Punks, Goths, Teds & More (1985)

Ask Germans who lived under the German Democratic Republic what they feared most in those days, and they'll likely say the agents of the Ministry for State Security, best known as the Stasi. Ask those same Germans what they laughed at most in those days, and they may well give the same answer. As one of the most thoroughly repressive secret police forces in human history, the Stasi kept a close eye and a tight grip on East German society: as one oft-told joke goes, "Why do Stasi officers make such good taxi drivers? You get in the car and they already know your name and where you live." But this fearsome vigilance went hand-in-hand with technological limitation as well as plain ineptitude:  "How can you tell that the Stasi has bugged your apartment?" another joke asks. "There's a new cabinet in it and a trailer with a generator in the street."

When the Stasi turned this kind of crude but intense scrutiny to certain aspects of life, the results almost satirized themselves. Take, for instance, this circa-1985 internal guide used to identify the "types of negative decadent youth cultures in the German Democratic Republic," posted on Twitter by musician and writer S. Alexander Reed and later translated into English by a few of his followers.

The chart breaks down the supposedly decadent youth cultures of mid-1980s East Germany into eight groups, describing their interests, appearance, political inclinations, and activities in the columns below. The rock-and-roll-oriented "Teds," dressed in a "50s style," don't seem to rouse themselves for anything besides "birth and death days of idolized rock stars." The "Tramps," a "classic manifestation of the negative-decadent youth in the 70s," adhere to the trends of a somewhat more recent era.

The fans of "extremely hard rock" known as "Heavies" once held a "deprecative attitude towards state and society," but seemed at the time to become "increasingly society-conforming." Other youth cultures considered decadent by the Stasi bore labels that might still sound familiar across the world. The "Goths," a "satanic and death cult," are noted for their "glorification of creepy effects" and for being "fans of the group The Cure." Though they may have been "hardly noticed operationally," the "punks" presented a more clear and present threat, what with their "deprecative to hostile political attitude, rejection of all state forms and societal norms," "anarchist thoughts," and belief in "total freedom."

You can see the chart in a larger size here, and if you'd like to examine the real thing, you have only to visit Leipzig's Museum in der Runden Ecke (or view it online here). The document resides in its collection of the tools of the Stasi trade, including, in the words of Atlas Obscura, "old surveillance cameras, collections of confiscated personal letters, and crisp uniforms letting visitors get a glimpse into the world of brutal state espionage." Germans who remember all the power the Stasi could potentially wield over their lives — a power, for all they knew, about to descend on them any moment — must still feel a chill upon seeing one of those crisp uniforms. Now we know that their wearers might, upon laying eyes on Birkenstocks ("literally: 'Jesus slippers'"), red and black worn together ("contrasts as a symbol of anarchy"), or a mohawk (or "Iriquois") haircut, have felt apprehensive themselves.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The “Slave Bible” Removed Key Biblical Passages In Order to Legitimize Slavery & Discourage a Slave Rebellion (1807)

Photo via the Museum of the Bible

In an 1846 speech to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, Frederick Douglass summed up the twisted bond between slavery and religion in the U.S. He began with a short summary of atrocities that were legal, even encouraged, against enslaved people in Virginia and Maryland, including hanging, beheading, drawing and quartering, rape, “and this is not the worst.” He then made his case:

No, a darker feature is yet to be presented than the mere existence of these facts. I have to inform you that the religion of the Southern states, at this time, is the great supporter, the great sanctioner of the bloody atrocities to which I have referred. While America is printing tracts and Bibles; sending missionaries abroad to convert the heathen; expending her money in various ways for the promotion of the gospel in foreign lands, the slave not only lies forgotten, uncared for, but is trampled underfoot by the very churches of the land.

Douglass did not intend his statement to be taken as an indictment of Christianity, but rather the hypocrisy of American religion, both that “of the Southern states” and of “the Northern religion that sympathizes with it.” He speaks, he says, to reject “the slaveholding, the woman-whipping, the mind-darkening, the soul-destroying religion” of the country, while professing a religion that “makes its followers do unto others as they themselves would be done by.”

Douglass harshly condemns slave society in the U.S., but, perhaps given his audience, he also politically elides the extensive role many churches in the British Empire played in the slave trade and Atlantic slave economy—a continued role, to Douglass’s dismay, as he found during his UK travels in the 1840s. I'm not sure if he knew that forty years earlier, British missionaries traveled to slave plantations in the Caribbean armed with heavily-edited Bibles in which “any passage that might incite rebellion was removed,” as Brigit Katz writes at Smithsonian. But he would hardly have been surprised.

The use of religion to terrorize and control rather than liberate was something Douglass understood well, having for decades keenly observed slaveowners finding what they needed in the text and ignoring or suppressing the rest. In 1807, the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves went so far as to literally excise the central narrative of the Old Testament, creating an entirely different book for use by missionaries to the West Indies. “Gone,” Katz points out, “were references to the exodus of enslaved Israelites from Egypt," references that were integral to the self-understanding of millions of Diaspora Africans.

Gone also were verses that might explicitly contradict the few proof texts slaveholders quoted to justify themselves. Especially dangerous was Exodus 21:16: “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.” The typical 66 books of a Protestant Bible had been reduced to parts of just 14. How is it possible to publish a Bible without what amounts to the mythic origin story of ancient Israel? One answer is that this was a different religion, one whose aim, says Anthony Schmidt, curator of the Museum of the Bible, was to make “better slaves.”

The "Slave Bible" did not cut out the subject completely. Joseph’s enslavement in Egypt remains, but this is likely as an example, says Schmidt, of someone who “accepts his lot in life" and is rewarded for it, a story U.S. churches used in a similar fashion. Passages in the New Testament that seemed to emphasize equality were cut, as was the entire book of Revelation. The infamous Ephesians 6:5—“servants be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, in fear and trembling”—remained.

Whether or not the Bible really did sanction slavery is a question still up for debate—and maybe an unanswerable one given differences in interpretive frameworks and the patchwork nature of the disparate, redacted texts stitched together as one. But the fact that British and American churches deliberately used it as a weaponized tool of propaganda and indoctrination is beyond dispute. The so-called “Slave Bible” is both a fascinating historical artifact, a very literal symbol of a practice that was integral to the institution of slavery—the total control of the narrative.

Such practices became more extreme after the Haitian Revolution and the many bloody slave revolts in the U.S., as the planter class became increasingly desperate to hold on to power. One of only three extant “Slave Bibles,” the abridged version—called Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands—is now on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, on loan from Fisk University. In the NPR interview above, Schmidt explains the book’s history to All Things Considered’s Michel Martin, who herself describes the text’s purpose in the most concise way: “To associate human bondage and human slavery with obedience to the higher power.”

via The Smithsonian

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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