Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The "Jim Crow Bible" - Did you know?

While reading this post, please click on each of the articles to enlarge and isolate them. All articles are sourced by hovering over the title bar at the top of each one.

Last night, I participated (via live feed), as an audience member, in a wonderful talk, given by author Isabel Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns) at the University of Richmond. During her engaging lecture, Ms. Wilkerson mentioned something that I'd never heard of - the "Jim Crow Bible". Curious, I decided to look up the term, to learn more about it. The closest thing to an actual definition I found was in this somewhat satirical little snippet posted in The Albuquerque Journal, in 1903.

Found on Newspapers.com

As was shared during the talk, the Jim Crow Bible was a term used to describe the separate bible that was used to swear in blacks, in a court of law, during the Jim Crow years - roughly 1877 to the beginning of the 1950s, when the Civil Rights era began.1
In my quest to learn more about this oddity, I discovered several newspaper articles, most of which made reference to the same (apparently) monumental event which occurred in Raleigh, NC in 1906.

First there was this, from The Raleigh Times, in March 1906.

Found on Newspapers.com

By August of that same year, apparently folks were still talking about this judge's horrible mistake, only now, as often happens when stories are passed down and around over time, the tale has grown to include a bible-tainting kiss. Read about it from the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle. No worries though. A new (replacement) bible could be purchased for just fifty cents.

Found on Newspapers.com

Now, before you go thinking that the whole kissing the bible thing was an embellishment, take a look at this article from a November, 1947 edition of The Pittsburg Courier.5  Yes, that's right. I said 1947. 

Found on Newspapers.com

Well, folks, I think you get the picture. I have to say that I've been educated, yet again. Little did I know that Jim Crow stretched its racist, segregationist hand even to the touching (or kissing) of the Holy Book. What baffles me most about this is that those same black hands that weren't supposed to grace the same bibles, were holding, loving, raising the children, preparing the food, washing the clothes, and even changing the very sheets of the folks who dared not place a hand on this sacred implement during a seconds-long courthouse ritual.

Go figure...

Image result for hands on bible

1 Melvin I. Urofsky https://www.britannica.com/event/Jim-Crow-law

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