Begrimed and Black

Begrimed and Black


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



With special emphasis to the history of ideas, but also to pictorial images and popular

movements, Hood documents the inception and growth of the myth of black carnality,

with its commingling of disdain and desire, fear and fascination



Begrimed and Black

Color Prejudice and the Religious Roots of Racism

By Robert E. Hood


How did the negative associations that many people harbor about black (as a skin color) and blackness (as a symbol) arise? How it is that blackness can connote both evil (darkness, dread, wickedness) and eroticism (sensuality, sexual potency, allure)?

Robert E. Hood’s unique and fascinating work probes the mythic roots of racial prejudice in Western attitudes toward color. With special emphasis to the history of ideas, but also to pictorial images and popular movements, Hood documents the inception and growth of the myth of black carnality, with its commingling of disdain and desire, fear and fascination.

In tracing that vein from Graeco-Roman and biblical sources through signal moments in subsequent history, Hood shows how Christianity forged the key links between blackness, evil, sexuality, and magic. he also tracks how Christendom has been a crucial bearer of ideas that sealed the fate of millions of Africans in the colonial era and that still figure prominently in subordination of blacks and in the disfiguring of American society.

— Fortress Press, publisher


An important contribution to the history of Western cultural, especially Christian, representation and symbolics regarding the nexus between color differences and racism. . . . A powerful opening salvo worthy of serious consideration by all

Vincent L. Wimbush, Union Theological Seminary, New York

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Begrimed and Black

Color Prejudice and the Religious Roots of Racism

By Robert E. Hood



Table of Contents

Preface ix  Acknowledgements xv Introduction 1 1 Shades of Blackness in Greek and Roman Cultures: Before Christ 23 2 Africa and the Christian Tradition 45 3 Blackness as Evil and Sex in Early Christian Thought 73 4 Blackness and Sanctity 91 5 Christendom and Black Slavery 115 6 Blackness in Europe and America 133 7 Ham’s Children in America: Blacks on Blackness 155 Epilogue 181 Index  191

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Begrimed and Black

Color Prejudice and the Religious Roots of Racism

By Robert E. Hood


Roger Bastide, “Color, Racism, and Christianity,” Daedalus 96 (Spring 1967): 315

 Kenneth J. Gergen, “The Significance pf Skin Color in Human Relations, Daedalus 96 (Spring): 397

 Frank DikOtter, The Discourse of Race in Modern China (London: Hurst, 1992),  10

 Harold R. Isaacs, “Group Identity and political Change: The Role of Color and physical Characteristics,” Daedalus 96 (Spring 1967): 370

 Basil Davidson, The African Slave Trade, rev. ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980), p. 189

 Hiroshi Wegatsuma, “The Social Perception of Skin Color in Japan,” Daedalus 96 (Spring, 1967):407-408.

 D.D. Kosambi, The Culture and Civilization of Ancient India in Historical Outline (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), 72.

 Ainslie T. Embree, ed. Sources of Indian Tradition, vol. 1 (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1988), 7.

 Andre Beteille, “Race and Descent as Social Categories in India,” Daedalus 96 (Spring 1967): 451

 Bernard Lewis, Race and Color in Islam (New York: Harper & Row, 1971) 9-10.

 Edward Gibbon, The History of the decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 8 vols., ed Felipe Fernandez-Arinesto (London: The Folio Society, 1988), 6:81.

 Uthman ‘Amir Ibn Gahr Al-Jahiz, The Book of the Glory of the Black Race, trans. Vincent J. Cornell (Waddington: N.Y.: Phyllis Preston Collection, 1981), 40-41

 F. Anfray, “The Civilization of Aksum from the First to the Seventh Century,” General History of Africa, vol. 2: Ancient Civilizations of Africa, ed. Gamal Mokhter (Berkeley, Calif.: Univ of California Press, 1981, 375.

 Arnold Rubin, Black Nanban: African in Japan During the 16th Century (Bloomington: African Studies Program, Indiana Univ., 1974), 8.

 Jack D. Forbes, Black Africans and Native Americans: Color, Race and caste in the evolution of Red-Black peoples (Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1988), 90.

 Henry Marsh, Slavery and Race: The Story of Slavery and its Legacy for Today (Newton Abbot, England: David & Charles, 1974), 86.

Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1968), 7.

 David Nicholls, From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour, and national Independence in Haiti (Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979).

 Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, “The Formation of Afro-Creole Culture,” in Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization, ed. Arnold R. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon (Baton Rouge: Louisianaa State Univ. Press, 1992), 58-87.

 Lyla Hay Owen and Owen Murphy, Creoles of New Orleans: Gens de Couleur (People of Color) New Orleans: First Quarter Publishing Co., 1987), 2-3.

 Alice Walker, The Color Purple (New York: Washington Square Press, 1982), 239.

 S.G.P. Brandon, Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1963).

 Charles H. Long, Alpha: The Myths of Creation (New York: G. Braziller, 1963).

 Babara Sproul, primal Myths: Creating the World (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979).

 Modupe Oduyoye, The Sons of the Gods and the Daughters of Men: An Afro-Asiatic Interpretation of Genesis 1-11 (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1984).

 Harold Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes (New York: Crown Publishers, 1973), 15-20.

 M.A. Fabunmi, A Traditional History of the Ile-Ife (Ile-Ife, Nigeria: Kings press, n.d.)

 Robert E. Hood, “Creation Myths in Nigeria: A Theological Commentary,” Journal of Religious Thought 45 (Winter-Spring 1989): 70-84

 Charles S. Finch, “The Education of the Caucasoid,” in African Presence in Early Europe, ed. Ivan Sertima (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1985), 19.

 Cheikh Anta Dip, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, trans. Mercer Cook (Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill, 1974), pp. 65-66.

 Roland Oliver, “The African Rediscovery of Africa,” Times Literary Supplement, 20 March 1981, 29.

 Gerda Lerner, ed. Black Women in White America (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972), 161-63.

 Estelle B. Freedman, “The Manipulation of History at the Clarence Thomas Hearing,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 38 (January 8, 1992), B2-B3.

 Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 562.

 St. Clair Drake, Black Folk Here and there: An Essay in History and Anthropology, vol. 1 (Los Angeles: Center for Afro-American Studies, Univ. of California, Los Angeles, 1987), 63.

 Robert T. Handy, A Christian America: Protestant Hopes and Historical Realities (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971).

 Martin E. Marty, Righteous Empire: The Protestant Experience in America (New York: Dial Press, 1970).

 Kenneth B. Clark. Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power (New York: Harper & Row, 1965) 225-26.

 James H. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power (New York: Seabury Press, 1969), 31.

 William R. Jones, Is God  a White Racist? A Preamble to Black theology, C. Eric Lincoln Series on Black religion (new York: Doubleday, 1973), xx

 Klauspeter, Blaser, Wennn Gott Schwarz ware. . . (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 1972), 181-200, 284-92.

Note: The items in this bibliography appear here in the same order that they occurs in Dr. Robert E. Hood’s “Introduction” to Begrimed and Black (1994). Note his frequent use of the Spring 1967 issue of Daedalus, an issue that deal entirely with “Color and Race.”


Robert E. Hood (1936-1994) was professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Center for African-American Studies at Adelphi University, Garden City New York and author also of Must God Remain Greek? Afro Cultures and God Talk (Fortress Press 1990).  Hood died at his home in Forest Hills, Queens, on August 9, 1994, at age 58. Cause was complications after an unspecified illness.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—


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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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update 5 January 2012




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