The Sons of Noah and the Estates of Man
Modern scholarship is responsible for perpetuating two false claims about the reception of the Curse of Ham in the medieval era: first, that there was a tradition of associating the slave Ham with Africans; second, that part of the blame for this association can be placed at the foot of Jewish exegesis. Both of these false claims have had profound negative consequences for contemporary relations between the American Jewish and AfricanAmerican communities.2 The historical record actually reveals that, while the Hamic origin of serfdom was widely held in the medieval era, it was not associated with Jewish exegesis of the text or connected in any meaningful way to Africa. In the medieval era, Ham was the father of the European serf. Further, while it would be wrong to say that Ham was without racial identity in the medieval era, it would be wrong to say that he embodied “race” in any modern sense of the word. In the European medieval mind, Ham belonged to the race of serf. In this way, Ham was less the “other” than he would become in the modern era.