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Human slavery

Quotations from biblical times to now

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Quotations from holy texts:

bullet"A man came to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and said: 'Guide me to a deed that makes me close to Heaven and far from Hell.' The Prophet replied: 'Free a person and redeem a slave.' " 1
 
bullet"And if a man smite his servant [male slave], or his maid [female slave], with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money [property]." Hebrew Scriptures, Exodus 21:20-21.

Quotations from the past:

18th Century:

Thomas Jefferson stated:

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.  Commerce between master and slave is despotism.  Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate that these people are to be free." 5

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19th Century:

At the time Christianity was divided over the morality of human slavery. Most Southerners supported slavery; most in the North were abolitionists. Many denominations split on in two over the question. Some quotations at the time were:

bullet"The hope of civilization itself hangs on the defeat of Negro suffrage." A statement by a prominent 19th-century southern Presbyterian pastor, cited by Rev. Jack Rogers, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
 
bullet"The doom of Ham has been branded on the form and features of his African descendants. The hand of fate has united his color and destiny. Man cannot separate what God hath joined."  James Henry Hammond, 19th century U.S. senator and hebephile. 2
 
bullet"Enslave the liberty of but one human being and the liberties of the world are put in peril." William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), founder of the New-England Anti-Slavery Society and co-founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He was a Christian perfectionist.

bullet "The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." Rev. Richard Furman, the first president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

bullet "Slavery was established by the decree of Almighty God. It is sanctioned in the Bible, in both testaments, from Genesis to Revelation." Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.

bullet "The abolitionism which I advocate is as absolute as the law of God, and as unyielding as his throne. It admits of no compromise. Every slave is a stolen man; every slaveholder is a man stealer. By no precedent, no example, no law, no compact, no purchase, no bequest, no inheritance, no combination of circumstances, is slaveholding right or justifiable." William Lloyd Garrison.

bullet"If you allow one single germ, one single seed of slavery to remain in the soil of America... that germ will spring up, that noxious weed will thrive, and again stifle the growth, wither the leaves, blast the flowers and poison the fair fruits of freedom." Ernestine L. Rose, (1810 - 1892) Freethinker and Atheist. She was once referred to as "“a female Atheist... a thousand times below a prostitute.” by a newspaper in Bangor, ME.

bullet "We began to stir against slavery. Hearts grew soft, here, there, and yonder. There was no place in the land where the seeker could not find some small budding sign of pity for the slave. No place in all the land but one -- the pulpit. It yielded at last; it always does. It fought a strong and stubborn fight, and then did what it always does, joined the procession -- at the tail end. Slavery fell. The slavery text remained; the practice changed, that was all." From: "Bible Teaching and Religious Practice from Europe and Elsewhere and A Pen Warmed Up In Hell" by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens).

More recent quotations:

bullet "Who are we? We are the descendants of slaves. ... We are the heirs of a past of rope, fire and murder. I for one am not ashamed of this past. My shame is for those who became so inhuman that they could inflict this torture upon us." Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
bullet"We must acknowledge the complicity of many of our churches in slavery, a system in which most African Americans were prohibited from practicing Islam or African traditional religions." Interfaith Relations and the Churches Policy Statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. 3
 
bullet"Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to speak up in this respect, or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda." John Ashcroft, in a defense of "southern patriots" like Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee who fought to preserve the slavery of human beings. 4
 
bullet"No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms." Article 4, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 
bullet Today, "Two hundred years after the British Empire abolished slavery – and 144 years after the Emancipation Proclamation – an estimated 27 million people around the world are living in slavery." National Council of Churches, 2007-JAN-26.

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References:

  1. Fiqh us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 67. This is a group of sayings attributed to Muhammad. They were collected by his followers shortly after his death.
  2. William Lee Miller, "Arguing About Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States Congress." Alfred A. Knopf, (1996), Page 139.
  3. "Interfaith Relations and the Churches," a Policy Statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. See: http://bruno.ncccusa.org/interfaith/ifr.html
  4. Quotation from an interview of John Ashcroft by the Southern Partisan magazine, 1999. (Ashcroft was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General in 2001-FEB.) Quoted in "Echoes of slavery as Bush nominees back confederacy," The Guardian, at:  http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/bush/story/
  5. Found on Panel 3 on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC. See: http://thomasjeffersonfoundation.net/

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Copyright © 2009 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-FEB-25
Latest update and reviewed: 2013-SEP-29
Compiled by B.A. Robinson
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