Ham and the Black Man

Not ham the food: Ham, Noah’s son.

I grew up in the South, “insert clever Southern cliche’ here”, right in the center of the Bible belt.

I was brought up in a religion I dare not name, because I’m positive that if I did name this religion, offense would be taken by any members of it…because that’s what they do.

But, I digress.

I was 7. I was in Sunday School learning about Noah.

I heard of the arc and all about his life.

And then I was told that Ham, Noah’s son, looked upon his father in lust, and God turned him black for his sin–so, Ham was the first black man in the Bible. Why in the world that was even relevant to anything, I have no idea, but, nevertheless, that’s what I was told.

And that’s what I believed, because I was 7.

Fast forward 20 years:

My husband (the Baptist;) and I are sitting with friends of ours from church discussing lesson plans for the upcoming Sunday School session.

Noah was brought up and I casually said “well, do we have to include the story of Ham turning black for looking at his father in lust?”.

Crickets chirped.

My husband looked at me like I had three heads.

My friends husband asked where I had heard that and I relayed the story–very confident of myself, I might add.

My friends husband simply said “well, let’s look that up in the Bible”.

And guess what? To my total shock and dismay–it was NOT THERE!!!

NOWHERE in the Bible does it say this.

So, I came home, googled it and there it was—the reason that that very story is believed—it was used to justify slavery. Noah’s curse (to Canaan, Ham’s youngest son) included: “may he be the lowest of servants to his relatives”. It’s racist. It’s wrong. It’s distorted.

It’s not a representation of the God I know.

I called my momma. She verified the story I had believed, as it was what she still believed. I asked her where she had heard that story and she said “my momma”.

I cried when I told her that it was not there. I cried because I feared other things I had learned growing up, were not true as well.

I’m sharing my ignorance with you for a reason. The core of my very foundation was shaken. Everything I had ever been taught came into question. And why wouldn’t it? Have you ever had your foundation shaken? It hurts.


I cannot be the only one that this has happened to.

Here’s what I’ve learned from this experience:

First and foremost, I’m ashamed that I believed that for so many years and never thought to question it, even though I had read the story of Noah before in the Bible.

Secondly, thank GOD, thank GOD, I never relayed that story to my children.

Finally, listen up, people: we have got to be in the Word ourselves. It’s okay to say “let’s look that up”. Do not take secondhand traditional information.

Furthermore, this story is proof of why tradition should not be our religious teacher and our religion should not substitute a relationship with Him.


2 thoughts on “Ham and the Black Man

  1. I’m pretty sure we went to the same church because that story was taught to me as well. In addition, I was also taught that Cain’s mark was likely being made black.

    I am just happy that your heart was open to rejecting that interpretation.

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