Michael Llenos brings up the matter of Ham and slavery. Not Ham as in Ham and Eggs but Ham as in Noah’s three sons, Shem, Japheth, and Ham. The curse laid upon Ham by Noah was a standard justification for slavery in the Old South. Here is the relevant passage from Genesis, Chapter 9:
“19These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. 20And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. 23And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. 24And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.”
Africans were traditionally said to be descended from Ham, and hence destined by God for servitude.
In the Fall of 1993, shortly after I joined the UMass Afro-American Studies Department, I offered an undergraduate course on The Political Economy of Race and Class. I was the only White member of the department [not the first, but my predecessor was long retired by the time I showed up] and the students did not know what to make of me. One young Black man from Springfield, who went on to have a distinguished career as a student, sat in on the first lecture to check me out for his four siblings and cousins, all of whom were students at UMass. I passed muster, and the rest of the gang enrolled.
Some while into the semester I got to Franz Fanon’s Black Faces, White Masks, and for some reason [I forget now why], I mentioned the story about Ham, who was, I said, “of course not Black.” One of the cousins raised her hand and said, “But he was Black.” ‘Now look,” I said, “if his brothers were all White, how could he be Black?” “I don’t care,” she said, “he was.” “What makes you so sure?” I asked. “My grandma told me.”
I was the new boy in the department, and White besides, but I was not stupid, and I knew that you did not call out a person’s grandmother, so I just dropped the matter and moved on.