The Reverend Dr. Charles B. Copher is a distinguished and eminent African-American scholar of The Old Testament and Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Professor of Old Testament at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, wth a Ph.D. in Biblical Literature from Boston University.
“From 1852 to 1978 for over 125 years the Mormon Latter Day Saints had a policy against the the ordaining of men of African descent indicating they had been cursed by God through Noah (Genesis 1) which scriptures they interpreted as saying the descendants of Ham (Canaan his son) would be “servant of servants” to his brethren the descendants of Japheth and Shem. Dr copher stated: “Only in passing can we observe that after 1954, pro-segregationists revived every pro-slavery argument based upon Ham-Canaan-Cain in support of segregation. Such arguments continue today among some sects, some television ministries, and among such groups as the Ku Klux Klan.
On the other hand, some mainline White denominations have produced literature in refutation particularly of the Ham-Canaan doctrine. And several individual authors wrote similar books on the subject of segregation and the Bible. Such are the books Segregation and The Bible by Everett Tilson, and Segregation and Scripture by J. Oliver Buswell III.
Both the denominational literature and the books were written from the position of the New Hamite doctrine which, as we have seen, does not view Blacks (Negroes) as having been among the peoples of the Biblical world, and thus not subjects in the Biblical accounts about Cain, Ham, Canaan, or any other Biblical character.
To be noted also is the fact that in 1978 the Mormon Church admitted Blacks to the priesthood, thus removing apparently, Negroes from a curse on Cain/Ham/Canaan. In recent years a new and unique interpretation has been presented by a Canadian scholar, Arthur C. Custance. He regards the Genesis Table of Nations as historically trustworthy, and tradition-wise believes that Noah’s three sons represent the three racial groups that make up the world’s people.
To the Shemites, he assigns Hebrews, Arabs, Babylonians, Assyrians, etc.;
to the Japhethites, those whom he calls Caucasoids;
and to the Hamites he assigns the Mongoloid and Negroid peoples.
He then suggests that the curse that was pronounced upon Canaan or upon Ham should be interpreted to mean a servant ‘par excellence,’ i.e., the servants would perform a great service to their brethren. (Custance, 120, 149)
Dr Copher indicated:
“A discussion of Black interpretations of the Ham-Canaan curse might well continue with the observation that up to a generation ago Black writers boasted proudly of Negroes being the children of Ham. They either by-passed, hid, or ignored the curse. … The majority of U.S. Mormons are white and non-Hispanic. As indicated in the Encyclopedia Wikipedia due to intensive missionary work by the Mormons there are black Mormons in Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean, and a pre-1978 black “Genesis” Group recognized by the Mormons. –
“As is well known, the old Hamitic myth was used by Jews down through the ages, and was adopted by European-American interpreters of the Bible to justify the enslavement and later segregation of the Negroes. Going beyond the use of Cain-Ham-Canaan myths, some developed a Pre-Adamite myth that removed Negroes and other non-Europeans from the families of Adam-Noah.”
The Reverend Dr. Charles B. Copher is a distinguished and eminent scholar of The Old Testament and Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Professor of Old Testament at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, wth a Ph.D. in Biblical Literature from Boston University.
Dr Charles B. Copher in “Black Biblical Studies: An Anthology of Charles B. Copher: Biblical and Theological Issueson the Black Presence in the Bible” (Black Light Fellowship: Chicago, Illinois), 1993