chapter  5
36 Pages

This Heavy Curse: Popularizing the Curse of Ham

The loss of Canaan from the general narrative of Genesis 9 significantly enhanced the already malleable nature of the chapter. Over the late sixteenth century and into the seventeenth century, Noah and Ham would be employed by a wide variety of authors seeking to exploit the text for a number of different ends. As these authors manipulated the text one can begin to discern a pattern, a Curse Matrix, wherein each new contrivance built on the previous configuration and added to it. At the close of the seventeenth century, Ham’s “heavy curse” will evoke a single, and by now racist, image of a black-skinned, hypersexualized, pagan slave. This Matrix was then used for more than a century to repel any attack against the practice of African slavery in the English colonies of America.