Washington, DC – On display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is one of only three known copies of the abridged version of the Slave Bible.
The bible was printed by the Missionary Society For the Conversion of Negro Slaves, a group of missionaries that was formed in 1794. The society’s original intent was to convert Native Americans to Christ, but the group began to focus on enslaved Africans after the American Revolution.
These Christian missionaries converted enslaved Africans to Christianity by teaching them the Gospel… except the parts about freedom, equality, and resistance.
The censored version removed 90 percent of the Old Testament and 50 percent of the New Testament, eliminating potentially seditious passages such as Exodus 21:16, which reads, “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”
“You’ll see a jump from Genesis 45, and they’ve cut out all the material from Exodus 19,” says Anthony Schmidt, associate curator of Bible and Religion in America at the museum. “What they’ve cut out is the story of the Israelites captivity in Egypt and their eventual liberation and journey to the promised land.”
However, the curators of the Slavery Bible did keep some passages that they thought were necessary for slaves, including Ephesians 6:5.
The extremely rare artifact is on loan from Fisk University in Nashville, TN, which has housed the “Slave Bible” in their special collection for more than 50 years. The only other known copies of the artifact are in the United Kingdom.