Source: Hybrid Hate, Conflations of Antisemitism & Anti-Black Racism from the Renaissance to the Third Reich (Oxford University Press) 2020 A.D.
From the source, ” Blacks and Jews in the Western Imaginaire Attempts to account for human difference almost always positioned blacks and Jews outside the normative human frame, as we have seen in the case of Bruno, Vanini, La Peyrère, Kames, Voltaire, and many others, and this fact forms part of the etiology of the sickness of anti-black racism and Jew hatred. As far as blacks were concerned, color itself, the most obvious of human differences, played a major role. Since the time of Heraclitus (b.535 BC), and no doubt before, an associated set of black and white dualities existed between evil and good, death and life, night and day. The mind of man, explained Plato (428–328 BC), is a chariot pulled one way by the white horse of the gods and another way by the black horse of the underworld. Surprised by an African appearing unexpectedly atop Hadrian’s wall, the emperor Septimius Severus (145–211 BC) took the soldier’s black color as an evil portent of his own imminent death. Didymus the Blind (313–398), a Christian theologian in the Church of Alexandria, argued that Africans were black because of their allegiance with the devil, and in medieval representations the color black was an attribute not only of negroes but also of other evil entities, such as Jews and demons (Kaplan.2018 p.87). Jerome considered that Africans had been blackened not by the sun but by the dark stain of sin, and frequently in medieval pictorial scenes black Africans would be present as symbols of evil, in one case hammering a nail into Christ’s outstretched palm. Gratuitous black cruelty is suggested in the marginal depiction in the thirteenth-century Rutland Psalter of a hybrid with the body of a blemmye and set into its chest the black head of an African shooting an arrow into the backside of a harmless white monopod. On the beautifully embroidered fourteenth-century Marnhull Orphrey at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London there is, similarly, the image of a black African, or possibly a black Jew, beating Christ with a cudgel on the Via Dolorosa (Figure 1).
In medieval scenes of the crucifixion or mocking of Christ, individuals in the crowd sometimes carry a banner with the head of a negro on it instead of the more usual Jew’s hat.1… While white was usually virtuous and black was usually bad, black was not always indelible. Sin and cruelty created blackness, but it could be reversed. The English history of the world, Cursor Mundi, written around 1300, described how blue and black Moors could turn white simply as a result of physical contact with Christianity (Strickland.2003).2… A part of their supposed difference was the conviction that they were of a dark color, perhaps black, perhaps brown, and had negroid traits. These suspicions coexisted with diametrically opposed fears that the color and look of Jews were indistinguishable from the color and look of Christians. Thus, the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 complained that that Jews “cannot be distinguished by any difference” and called for some way of identifying them. In 1218 the Jewish badge was introduced in England. Subsequently signifiers such as the Jewish hat and badges of different colors, sizes, and shapes were introduced all over Europe (Kaplan.2013). Sander Gilman, among others, has pointed to gentile perceptions that Jews were just as black as negroes. According to Gilman Jews “were quite literally seen as black” (Gilman.1994). As Melamed, following Gilman, put it, there was “a strong European tradition, dating back to the Middle Ages which maintained that Jews were ‘black’ or at least swarthy and finds sharp expression in modern anti-Semitic literature” (Melamed.2003 p.31). HaCohen, in a revisionist article, shows that some, but not all, of the evidence used to support the notion of a long and continuing tradition of perceived Jewish blackness in fact does no such thing, but he also provides some new evidence of his own of perceptions of Jewish blackness (HaCohen.2018). Much of the evidence produced by Gilman and Melamed stands, and a good deal more evidence is provided throughout this book, but such evidence should be understood in the context of the overarching caveat that the general concept of Jewish color was chronically unstable. Nonetheless, there clearly was a longstanding discourse, not only in religious and liturgical works but also in early naturalist writing, that constructed the color of Jews not simply as metaphorically black through their perceived relationship with, for instance, transgression, but also as somatically black. As early as the twelfth century “not only theology but medicine and natural science conspired to treat the Jews’ black or dark complexion not only as an image of the soul but also as an empirical fact supported by scientific explanation” (Resnick.2012 p.295).
The humoral theory which dates back to Hippocrates (c.460–370 BCE), understood the body as consisting of four humors or liquids, one of which, “black bile,” was known as melancholy. M. Lindsay Kaplan, explained that melancholy was identified as “black bile” which carried associations with evil and with night. The Jews’ dark, melancholy complexion was the result of a malign influence, as well as a punishment for their alleged murder of the son of God. The blood of Jews was “black and putrid,” and they were associated with blackness in a variety of other ways (Kaplan.2013). Jews’ black, melancholy nature was expressed through their association with Saturn, as medieval astrology shows. Saturn, the planet of the Jews, exerted its special influence over Jews as well as over anything black. Alchabitius (d.967) (Al-Qabisi), the Arab astrologer from Aleppo, who became, through Latin translations, a standard authority on astrology in medieval Europe, argued that Saturn “had the faith of Judaism, black clothing … to him belong … everything whatsoever that is black” (Zafran.1979; Abrahams.1961).8 One Christian critic of the supposedly “Jewish” pope Anacletus II, elected in 1130, noted that the pope was “dark … more like a Jew or an Arab than a Christian.” Similarly, the English Benedictine monk and chronicler Orderic Vitalis’s (1075–c.1142) description of a descendant of converts from Judaism characterizes him as “nigrum et pallidum …, magis Judaeo vel Agarena quam Christiano simile” (“black and pallid, more like a Jew or Muslim than a Christian”) (Kaplan.2013). Kaplan argues that the frequent conflation of blacks and Jews through the figures of black or dark Jews in English psalters from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, as well as other factors, suggests that in England there existed an immutable Jewish “racial identity” which corresponds to a contemporary sense of race (Kaplan.2007). The cognitive double vision that transforms white into black would be an important factor in the perception of Jews for centuries to come, and would achieve its malign flowering during the period of the Third Reich…. Kaplan later expanded the idea of the racialization of the Jews through a study of the Christian concept of permanent, immutable, hereditary Jewish inferiority, which racial characteristic was also applied to Moors and Africans (Kaplan.2018). According to Kaplan there was a regular conflation of the somatic essence of Moors, blacks, and Jews. Non-Christians are regularly portrayed as pallid, blue, or black, and these colors similarly portray death, illness, or melancholy. The color representation of Jews, while regularly portraying Jews as black or dark, was unstable as it also exploited the larger palette of colors associated with infidels (Kaplan.2007; Kaplan.2018 p.214).
The color of Moors or Muslims was also unstable: there were white Moors as there were Blackamoors. The color problematic in English, as well as in European constructions of Jewish and black identity, in the medieval and early modern periods, was to some extent a function of the convergence and conflation of ideas about Jews and Moors, while ideas about Moors were similarly conflated with ideas about black Africans, who came to be known as Blackamoors, whether they were Muslim or not (Mackay.2008). Among the Blackamoors, or perhaps beyond the Blackamoors, on the furthest horizons of the European imagination, there were supposed to be vast numbers of Jews, who potentially represented a mortal threat to Christendom. The well-known legends that flowed from the account provided by the mysterious ninth-century figure Eldad the Danite, referred to by Adolf Neubauer as “the Arabian Nights of the Jews,” suggested that there were substantial, well-organized Jewish populations in Africa. In 1523, a pamphlet printed in Augsburg warned that there were 600,000 “schwartz und rodt juden” (black and red Jews) who were poised to capture Jerusalem from the Moors. (Gow.1994 p.263). In German-speaking areas of Europe the Rote Juden (red Jews), representing the supposedly lost Ten Tribes of Israel, were imagined to be allies of the Antichrist and were expected to invade Europe and destroy Christianity at the End of Days.9 Germans were terrified of these horrific, pestilential people, who were out to destroy them. Red and black Jews from outside the European orbit were perceived for centuries as the elemental enemies of Christendom, and no doubt the idea that the enemies at the gate, like the enemies within, were of colors other than white played a significant role in denigrating Jews and promoting the idea that all Jews were inherently black or colored, as well as adding to social coherence among the gentile population in German-speaking lands (Hund.2011).10… One of the most widely quoted sources suggesting that Jews were considered to be somatically black is from the German Christian Hebraist and cosmographer Sebastian Münster (1488–1552). Published just a few years after the pamphlet about black and red Jews, Messias Christianorum et Judaeorum (Basel, 1539) (The Messias of the Christians and the Jewes. London, 1655) recorded a graphic dialogue between a Christian and a Jew, which was written in both Latin and Hebrew so that both Christians and Jews could read it. It starts with the Christian speaking to the Jew in Hebrew.
Taken aback, the Jew asks the Christian how he knew he was a Jew. The Christian replies (in the language of the 1655 English translation): “You Jewes have a peculiar color of face, different from the form and figure of other men, which thing hath often fill’d me with admiration [astonishment] for you are black and uncomely, and not white as other men” (Münster.1655 p.2). Rev. Robert Kirk (1644–1692), the Gaelic scholar and collector of legends about fairies, fauns, and other Good People (by whom he was widely thought to have been abducted as a punishment for revealing their secrets) considered Jews to be “black men” characterized by indistinct reasoning. His contemporary Sir William Brereton (1604–1661), the English Parliamentarian, soldier, and writer, who happened to visit a synagogue in Amsterdam, noted that the Jews there were very dark-skinned and lascivious. “They were most black,” he wrote, “… and insatiably given unto women.” One of the arguments deployed to explain the darkness or blackness of Jews was the food they ate. In 1599 Henry Buttes (d.1632), one-time master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, produced an entertaining food guide called Dyets Dry Dinner. He noted, correctly, that the Jews were great lovers of goose, which creature, according to him, filled “the body with superfluous humours.” This resulted in the Jews being “passing melancholious, their color swart [black] and their diseases very perilous.” If they had eaten hare instead, he opined, they might possibly have become paler and more beautiful: Indeed, the Italians, he observed, had a saying “which speaketh thus of a fair man, ‘He hath eaten an hare.’?” In New Voyage to Italy (1699) (which would be the standard guidebook to Italy for the next half century) François Maximilian Misson (c.1650–1722), the French Protestant writer and traveler, is quoted by Gilman and many others as suggesting that the Jews were black.
In fact, he said something rather more interesting. He noted simply that Jews came in different colors and that it would be a mistake to suppose that they were all “basané,” or swarthy, when many of them were actually white (Misson.1699; Gilman.1992; HaCohen.2018). The French naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffon read Misson correctly. Interrogating the new trope of multicolored Jews, Buffon wrote: It has been claimed that the Jews, who came originally from Syria and Palestine, have the same brown complexion they had formerly. As Misson, however, justly observes, the Jews of Portugal alone are tawny. As they always marry with their own tribe, the complexion of the parents is transmitted to the child, and thus with little diminution preserved, even in the northern countries. The German Jews, those of Prague, for example, are not more swarthy than the other Germans. (Buffon.1792 p.262; cf. Lipton.2014) Some Jews accepted the argument that, as a kind of retribution for their sins, they had been gradually darkened, by the intervention of the Almighty, until they were black. This was the position of Isaac ben Judah Abrabanel (1437–1508), the Portuguese Jewish statesman, exegete, and financier, who observed that once long ago the Jews had been light-skinned, but that they had grown dark as part of the punishment of exile. The thirteenth-century polemical text of Rav Yosef b. Nathan Oficial tried to account for the Christian accusations that Jews were dark and unattractive. “Why,” asked Rav Yosef, “are the majority of gentiles white and attractive, while the majority of Jews are black and ugly?” The writer explained this through an analogy of ripening fruit. Plums and sloes, he argued, are white at the start and gradually become dark when they are ripe, whereas fruits like apples or apricots, which are red to start with, finish up white and shriveled. This analogy was intended to present the Jews in a better light: As Jews have no contact with the red of menstrual blood at the moment of their conception, because they refrain from sexual intercourse during the menstrual period, they finish up black, like plums. Christians, who are polluted by menstrual blood, start off red but finish up white, like apples. Sefer Yosef ha-Mekanneh thus boasts that “we Jews are from a clean and white seed; therefore, our faces are black, but you are from the red seed of menstruation, therefore your visages are pale and reddened” (Schorsch.2004 p.180; cf. Gilman.1992; Melamed.2003; Parfitt.2013)…. Religion in general was thought to manifest itself physically in such a way that one’s inner religious convictions were visible externally. Judaism, like other religions, was thought to manifest itself physically.
The English play A Christian Turn’d Turk (1612), by the dramatist Robert Daborne, includes a dialogue in which one character asks another: “Doth religion move anything in the shapes of men?” The other replies, “Altogether! What’s the reason else that the Turk and the Jew is troubled (for the most part) with gouty legs and fiery nose? To express their heart-burning. Whereas the Puritan is a man of upright calf and clean nostril.” Mutability of color, which would become a major theme of nineteenth- and twentieth-century racial discussions, was framed in the seventeenth century in terms of conviction. We have seen that blacks exposed to Christianity were capable of turning white. Similarly, in 1648, Thomas Calvert (1606–1679), a vicar of Trinity Church, York, published a translation of the testimony to the truth of the Christian faith of one Rabbi Samuel, a converted Jew from Fez. This anti-Jewish diatribe, which was first published in 1339, was called in Calvert’s translation The blessed Jew of Marocco: or, A Blackmoor made white. It explained that through conversion to Christianity a Jew’s naturally black color could be changed. Three hundred years later the French theologian Isaac La Peyrère, himself of Jewish ancestry, noted that a Jew’s black color would turn as white as a dove’s breast once he was baptized… From the beginning of the thirteenth century, Christian images of Jews, like those of negroes, were often aggressive and hostile and included demonic features, bristling beards, brutish expressions, and large or hooked noses. Routinely represented in every kind of visual representation from stained glass windows to manuscript illumination, Jews often appeared as freaks, demons, hybrids, or monsters.
The intrepid aristocrat Ludovico di Varthema (c.1470–1517), author of Itinerario de Ludovico de Varthema Bolognese (Rome, 1510), noted for being perhaps the first non-Muslim European to visit Mecca, intriguingly described encountering some pygmy Jews, suggestive of the so-called “monstrous races,” on a mountain near Medina. In the English translation provided in Purchas His Pilgrimes these “pigmei” Jews were of very little stature, as of the height of five or six spannes, and some much lesse. They have small voyces like women, and of blacke color, yet some blacker than others … They are circumcised, and deny not themselves to be Iewes … They wandered in that Mountayne, scattered like wilde Goates or Prickets. (Holmberg.2012 p.117) The same association of Jewish pygmies, goats, and “monstrous races” appears in the margins of the thirteenth-century Rutland Psalter, where there is an image of a small male figure, no doubt a pygmy, looking quizzically at a flute-playing goat. As other “monstrous races” from the classical repertoire, quite apart from pygmies, figure in the marginalia of this psalter, it is reasonable to suppose that the Jew and goat motif is intended to conjure up an allusion to both the “monstrous races” and “the Jew’s beast.” As Strickland points out, the bright, orange pointed hat, long nose, and beard mark this Pygmy as a Jew… . in addition, the Jew is standing next to a goat, an animal associated with both the Devil and the Jews in medieval art and thought. Both the Jew and the goat in this image share certain physical characteristics: both stand on two legs, both wear beards, and according to contemporary belief, both are horned… Jews’ dark ignorance of things was often stressed, as it was with respect to blacks. At the dawn of the eighteenth century a French Protestant, not badly disposed to Jews, could firmly state that “no Body can doubt that those of the Jewish nation are destitute of all authentick Tradition; and, that, as being Jews, they have not any particular Knowledge, either of the Laws and Customs of their Ancestors, or even of the Hebrew language” (Misson.1699). As long as they clung to their tired and wrong beliefs and rituals, they could not expect to play a full part in Western society. For many Enlightenment thinkers the Jews, like blacks, had nothing to offer. In 1780, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), the Enlightenment philosopher and dramatist, argued that while biblical Judaism could perhaps be viewed as “the childhood of mankind” and biblical Jews as archetypes of primitive innocence, with the arrival of Christianity, Jews along with Judaism stopped being relevant and left the stage of history.
But if for some they lurked uselessly in the shadows, for others malign, black-faced Jews were still viewed, as they had been in medieval times, as an ignorant and misguided, terrifying and monstrous, dangerous and fearful menace to Christian European society. Eighteenth-century popes, as opposed to Jews as they were to the philosophes of the Enlightenment, re-enunciated the most restrictive anti-Jewish legislation in the face of what was generally regarded as monstrous Jewish cruelty to Christians (Stow.2017; Chisick.2016). Blacks and Jews, along with Moors, were fundamental “others” for Christian Europeans, were often mentioned in the same breath for that reason, and were regularly imagined to have shared ancestry. Linkages of different sorts between blacks and Jews in medieval Europe were extremely widespread. Indeed, there was a general tendency on the part of medieval Christians to confuse or link Jews with all sorts of minorities, “with other Others,” as Schorsch puts it. The linkage of Jew, and Moor or Turk or Blackamoor, as “others” is to be found throughout the texts, songs, and prayers of Christendom. In 1606 the Spanish Benedictine monk and historian Fray Prudencio de Sandoval (1553–1620), then Bishop of Pamplona in northwest Spain, made a clear connection between Jews and blacks through the indelible nature of their respective, essential characteristics. On the one hand Jews all suffered from the sad effect of failed beliefs and ingratitude, while blacks suffered from their indelible blackness, of which they and their progeny could never rid themselves, no matter how many times they slept with white women. In other words, there was never a chance of a male black producing anything but a dark child with a white woman, any more than there was a chance of a Jew producing offspring who would fail to demonstrate the arrogant wrongheadedness represented by their failed religion. Writing polemically against new Jewish converts to Christianity in about 1541, Francisco Machado linked Jews and blacks through their innate undesirability. He tried to imagine Portugal “cleansed of heresies and of Jewish ceremonies, and of Moors and Blacks.” On occasion, the darkness of the skin of Africans and Jews, as we have seen, was perceived as being not due to inheritance but to the effect of diseases such as syphilis, a trope that would persist until recent times. The “negritude” of the Jew was thus not only a mark of sin or racial inferiority, or of shared blood with Africans, but was a pathological taint…
The Loango Turn “There are black Jews here too, who are not part of nature’s deviants, but constitute a distinct class of people” (Krünitz.1804 p.778). So read the entry right at the end of the seventy-ninth volume of Oekonomische Encyklopädie in a section dealing with Loangan marvels and freaks. In addition to white negroes, pongos, and all the other oddities and hybrids, there were also black Jews in this remarkable kingdom. Krünitz did not reveal the source of his startling information, but it was undoubtedly a book entitled Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen Brueder auf den Caraibischen Inseln St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Jan (A History of the Mission of the Evangelical Brethren on the Caribbean Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John), which had been published a few years before, in 1777, in Barby, which at the time formed part of the Electorate of Saxony. The “Evangelical Brothers” of the title, otherwise known as the Moravian Brothers, were engaged in missionary work among African slaves in the Danish Caribbean colonies. Its author, Christian Georg Andreas Oldendorp (1721–1787),1 reported, on the evidence of a Loangan slave, that there are black Jews in Loango, who celebrate the Sabbath so stringently that they do not speak a word all day. They live scattered all over the place and engage in trade. Whether they are exactly the same in appearance as the others or not, they are certainly similar to the other negroes; they are so despised by them that they do not eat with them. They have their own burial place, which is far away from the homes of the negroes. Their graves are made of masonry and adorned with figures of serpents and lizards painted on by those who come to bury the corpse. This seems ridiculous to the negroes. As the latter custom is so unlike Jewish usage perhaps we can assume that it is not unlikely that the lettering or letters on the Jewish tombs appear to the negroes like serpents and lizards.2 (Oldendorp.1777 p.287) Africa was uniquely productive of hybrids and, as we have seen, for Europeans, Loango was one of the places where hybrids could most reasonably be expected to flourish.
Oldendorp’s hybrid, a new type of Jew, an actual black, negro Jew, was yet another Loangan marvel. It might have been a hybrid between blacks and white Jews, or perhaps an indigenous and novel breed of Jew, that had developed, as a result of climate or other factors, over a very long period. Whatever produced this new hybrid, its appearance caused quite a stir in scientific circles.3 For the hundred years following the publication of Oldendorp’s book no new cultural or historical information about the cause of this stir—Loango’s black Jews—entered the scholarly or general literature. Indeed, there were those who cast doubt on their very existence and on Oldendorp’s reliability. In 1803 Theophil Friedrich Ehrmann (1762–1811), the German geographer and ethnographer, expressed extreme skepticism on the issue.4 The scientists of the Enlightenment, as he well knew, were dependent on the accuracy of the reports of travelers and missionaries, such as Oldendorp. But information unfiltered and unchecked would hardly help the forward march of science. To stress this point, he wrote a savage indictment of Olendorp in Allgemeine geographische Ephemeriden: How on earth did the black Jews of Loango get into our geography? Oldendorp, who has never even been to Africa, reported in his West Indian Missionary History that among the negroes he interviewed about the state of their homeland, there was a Loango negro who told him that there was a people in Loango, who observed one day a week very strictly, who did not eat with others, who placed figures of snakes and lizards on their tombstones, and from this the missionary concluded, very prematurely, that these had to be black Jews … Let us shine the torch of criticism on Oldendorp’s statement … how does it stand in all its nakedness?!—Consider: it is most likely, yes, in fact almost certain, that the negroes in Loango, who are distinguished by their customs, were not called Jews by the negro slave who reported the matter to Oldendorp (how would he have known anything about Jews?).
Oldendorp hastily concluded from this unconfirmed statement that it was Jews the slave described, simply because the slave-narrator said that they observed their Sabbath day strictly, had no fellowship with others, drew strange characters upon their gravestones and so forth … And what was the source for this important information? A single wretched negro slave with no culture or knowledge. In a footnote he concluded sarcastically that “it is possible that black Jews live in south Africa; it is possible that Falashas of Habesch (as Mr. Bruns suspects, though it has not yet been proved that these Falashas are real negroes) also settled here; it is possible that these black Jews (as Sprengel presupposes) may be Jews from Portugal; but geography cannot be built on possibilities!” (Allgemeine geographische Ephemeriden.1803. xi p.435). The doubts raised by Ehrmann seemed to be confirmed in 1849 by John Clarke, a Jamaican missionary with the Baptist Missionary Society. Clarke had been sent to set up a West Africa mission, although this enterprise failed. His subsequent book on the countries and customs of Africa mentioned that Oldendorp had claimed that there were Jews in Loango, but he noted that “no confirmation of this has been met with.” There simply were, at the time, no real facts in support of the presence in Loango of Jews. Even accepting the notorious delibility of facts, the absence of anything in this case was striking. In 1855, a report in The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle noted that it was unlikely that the Jews of Loango were descended from Jews exiled to the island of São Tomé in the fifteenth century as was sometimes suggested. Such a descent was “unknown to the present inhabitants of the country, and it would have been somewhat singular if the Roman Catholic missionaries at Loango had not detected this circumstance instead of regarding them as a pure African family of Jews” (The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle for 1855.2013 p.532). However, in 1864, William Winwood Reade (1838–1875), the son of an Oxfordshire squire, failed novelist, and fairly intrepid explorer, who will come into our story again, visited West Africa and wrote about Jewish children who had been enslaved by the Portuguese and sent to colonize the island of São Tomé. The Portuguese had provided “all the unmarried males with a negress” and together they had created a “mixed race,” some of whom had settled in Loango. Reade did not perceive anything specifically Jewish about this “mixed race.” He must have given the matter some thought because he concluded that the disappearance of the Jewish element in this hybrid was something of a blessing, as far as western interests in Africa were concerned. A Jewish-negro hybrid—“a union of the Jew and the negro would be commercially speaking, dangerous to Christianity.” What did he mean?
One can only speculate. But perhaps he meant that an amalgamation of Jewish brain and negro brawn would produce a human type superior to Europeans, and thus a danger to Western business and enterprise. Eventually, as we shall see, the existence of black Jews in Loango was conclusively proved. But long before this came about the rumored existence of Jews in Loango added to the existing millennium-old ambivalence about Jewish color and became a topic of enduring interest for ethnographers, geographers, naturalists, race scientists, and laymen, polygenists as well as monogenists. Oldendorp’s revelation was timely. As we have seen, there was a deep interest in scientific Enlightenment circles in what made skin color, and under what circumstances skin color could change into another color. A striking illustration of this preoccupation may be seen in the title of a book by the French surgeon Claude-Nicolas Le Cat. Traité de la couleur de la peau humaine en général, de celle des nègres en particulier et de la métamorphose d’une de ces couleurs en l’autre, soit de naissance, soit accidentellement (Treatise on the color of human skin in general, on that of negroes in particular and of the transformation of one of these colors into another, either through birth or by accident) appeared in 1765 and summarized the various contemporary theories on the origins of racial difference, the reasons for the black skin of negroes, and the various hybrids, such as white negroes, that were then known to exist. Initially, in a number of general works, such as Johann Christian Schedel’s 1803 Neues und vollständiges geographisches Lexikon für Kaufleute und Geschäftsmänner (New and Complete Geographic Dictionary for Merchants and Businessmen), encyclopedias, and school geography textbooks, Loango’s new and fascinating example of color transformation was listed alongside the equally mysterious tribe of Loangan white negroes. The Handbuch der Geographie für die Jugend (A Geography Manual for Young People) (1834) by the popular Catholic writer Joseph Annegarn (1794–1843), twinned Loango’s white negroes and black Jews as striking examples of African hybrids. But it was not long before black Jews, the epistemological richness of whose existence would soon be evident, emerged, uncoupled, as a unique species of Jew, with its own significance and usefulness (Fabri.1784; Annegarn.1834). The first reactions to Oldendorp’s discovery came from orientalists, theologians, geographers, and Hebrew professors at the great German universities. One of the first was Anton Büsching (1724–1793), the author of the seven-volume Neue Erdbeschreibung (Earth Description) (Hamburg, 1754–1792). Büsching was a theologian as well as a geographer, and his first comments on the black Jews were from a mainly theological standpoint. Büsching admired the Hebrew Bible but was contemptuous of post-biblical Judaism. The Loango Jews stimulated some revolutionary theoretical thoughts about hybridity in the mind of Büsching. First, he suspected that the fact that they had degenerated all the way from white to black mirrored the radical racial degeneration of modern Jews, who had created such a debased form of Judaism from such a sublime prototype: A debased race brought forth a debased religion.
It was also possible that these Jews had been turned black because they followed a degenerate religion: A debased religion brought forth a debased race. By some unexplained religious mechanism, white Jews had turned into black Jews. Nonetheless, as a practical geographer as well as a speculative race theorist cum theologian, he was puzzled. First of all, no previous author had ever, to his knowledge, reported the existence of Jews in Loango. In Oldendorp’s brief account, as he pointed out, there was not enough information to be certain that this was really a question of degeneration. Yes, it was possible that “old or original” Jews somehow penetrated Africa and stayed there until such time as their original white color degenerated into black. But perhaps there was another explanation: Could it be that these “Jewish negroes, by means unknown, somehow acquired the Jewish religion?” This was a puzzle, as Büsching put it, which “still has to be solved.” It was not long before news of Loango’s black Jews passed beyond the confines of the German-speaking world. In 1783, the British Critical Review attempted to provide a solution to Büsching’s dilemma and suggested that the black Jews were in reality the descendants of Iberian Jews and “from these banished Jews, the black Portuguese, as they are called, and the Jews in Loango … are descended.” In 1808, in France, the abbé Grégoire mentioned, probably in reference to the Loango Jews, that descendants of white Portuguese along this coastline had turned black. The existence of black Jews in Loango was perhaps to be expected, given the Jews’ tendency to travel the world and, in addition, confirmed his belief that “black was the original color of mankind” (Grégoire.1808). The controversy over the black Jews of Loango was addressed most comprehensively by the Danish-French pro-Revolutionary encyclopedist Conrad Malte-Brun (1775–1826),5 who was one of the chief geographical authorities in post-Revolution France. Shortly after his arrival in Paris in 1803, he started work, along with the well-known French geographer Edme Mentelle (1730–1816), on the sixteen-volume Géographie mathématique, physique et politique, which was finished in 1807, and between 1808 and 1814 brought out the periodical Nouvelles Annales des Voyages. Much of his work on Africa was published, in English translation, in Edinburgh in 1823, and later in editions in the United States. Among other things, Malte-Brun gathered together a number of Enlightenment perspectives on the black Jews that had arisen since 1777. In his review, Malte-Brun observed first of all that the leading intellectuals of the day, including Büsching, had no problem believing in the existence of a race of black Jews in Loango. Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791), the famous Prussian orientalist and Hebrew scholar, and close collaborator of Büsching, was also open to the possibility. So was Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann (1743–1815), the well-traveled geographer, economist, and zoologist from the important intellectual center of Brunswick.
Zimmermann thought that the negro characteristics of the Loango Jews had developed over a very long period, while Professor Kurt Sprengel (1766–1833), the German physician and botanist, considered these black Jews to be the descendants of Portuguese Jews whose skin had darkened over a matter of a few hundred years (Malte-Brun.1823). As the century progressed, the Loango Jews were sometimes constructed as cultural hybrids as well as racial hybrids. Ernst Georg Ravenstein (1834–1913), the German geographer, was contemptuous of cultural claims made about the black Jews. In particular he described as “absurd” the claim that in “Makoya, near Chinchosho … one of the villages of the supposed Jews” they kept the Jewish Sabbath “when in reality they have fetishes and casas da tinta like their neighbors.”6 If they celebrated such barbaric rituals, so went Ravenstein’s argument, the black Jews of Loango could hardly be considered Jewish in any way at all (Ravenstein.1900). Not long afterward, Richard Andree (1835–1912), the German ethnographer, geographer, and author of Volkskunde Der Juden (Folklore of the Jews) (1881), was also drawn into the discussion. By this time, the idea of racial mixing was considered to be productive of nothing but bad. Andree spoke of these Jewish hybrids as a “despised rabble” who slyly exploited the simple negroes of Loango through their sharp business practices. He proposed that Jewish personality and cultural traits had somehow been grafted onto the original stock of the Loango negro. However, at the same time he was convinced that degeneracy had eliminated all traces of their original Jewish “race.” Inherited behavioral patterns had survived. Racial characteristics had been lost. He ridiculed the idea that Semitic features could be traced “in the physiognomy of these negroes.” The idea that they looked or were Semitic, as some had claimed, was nonsense: ‘There can be no question of a direct lineage, it is at most one which was initiated and nourished by continual degeneration.” In 1799, not long after the discovery of the existence of black Jews, the German theologian and orientalist Paul Jakob Bruns (1743–1814) of the University of Helmstadt brought another community of black Jews into this critical discussion. He suggested that the Loango Jews were in all probability “descendants of the Falashas of Habesch, or Abyssinia” (Bruns.1799).7 Bruns was no doubt aware of the account of the Falasha that had been published just nine years before in Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile by the Scottish adventurer James Bruce, the laird of Kinnaird (1730–1794). In 1773, Bruce had returned to Europe after a dozen years of travel, first in North Africa and then in Ethiopia.8 Many of Bruce’s ideas seemed outlandish and were badly received. It was difficult to believe that he had eaten lion’s meat, or that Abyssinian soldiers sliced off juicy steaks from the rumps of living cows, then stitched them back up again, or that there were black Jews who were ruled by black Jewish kings and queens in the Ethiopian highlands. A hostile review of the second edition of Travels complained about the unsettling cultural and racial hybridity of the people he described: “half Jews, half Christians; half savage, half-civilised; half black, half white, half cannibals.”9 Bruce’s account included one of the first mentions of the existence of black Jews in Africa, but initially, unlike the revelations about Loango, it had rather little impact, partly because few people believed the “Abyssinian liar,”10 as he became known, and partly because Ethiopians were already perceived as “half black, half white” anyway, and the idea of Ethiopian Jews was not as unsettling as “negro” Jews (Thompson.2007; Moorefield.1975).
Connecting groups of negroid but “superior” sub-Saharan Africans with Ethiopia or with Egypt, with peoples who were considered to be closer to Europeans or Caucasians, to be “half black, half white” was a common trope throughout the increasingly racialized nineteenth century. By way of example, Thomas Edward Bowdich (1791–1824), a traveler in the service of the British African Company of Merchants, thought that the Ashanti were of Ethiopian origin, and there were similar theories for scores of other African ethnicities that were systematically constructed as being of Israelite or occasionally Egyptian origin (Parfitt.2002, 2013). The notion, suggested by Brun, that the Loango negro Jews were connected to the Falasha of Ethiopia was revived a couple of decades later by the Jewish orientalist Ludwig Markus (1798–1843),11 one of the founders of the German secular Jewish Studies movement, Wissenschaft des Judentums. Markus provided both the first considered Jewish reaction to the existence of the Falashas and the first Jewish reaction to Oldendorp’s revelation about black Jews in Loango. By and large Jews had very little interest in black Jews in Africa. The struggle for political and social emancipation for Jews throughout the nineteenth century carried with it a struggle to be seen as European. To acknowledge kinship with black brothers living on the edge of the Congo rain forest or scratching out a frugal existence on the thin earth of the Ethiopian highlands did not serve Jewish political or social interests. Ludwig Markus, however, was the exception.12 Born in Berlin, Markus was active in early Jewish German Enlightenment circles. Once he moved to Paris in 1825, he became interested in the study of Ethiopia and particularly the Ethiopian Jews. For this reason the eccentric yet erudite Markus, who ended his life in the “lunatic hospital” at Chaillot, became known in the intellectual salons of Paris and its boulevards as the “king of Abyssinia.”13 In addition to reacting to Bruce’s discovery of the Ethiopian Jews, he also provided a possible explanation of the origins of Loango’s Jews. His article in the Revue Asiatique of 1829 was important because it was the first response on the part of world Jewry to the supposed existence of the black Jews of Loango. The entirety of Markus’s work on Ethiopia was never published, although a long extract from the Revue was printed in book form. Markus formed a general theory that Ethiopians had ventured south from their highlands and had created satellite colonies throughout sub-Saharan Africa. He claimed to have evidence proving that some of these colonies were Judaic, and that descendants of these ancient Ethiopian colonists were in his day to be found in the three black Jewish communities at the time thought to exist in Africa.
The research he was engaged in, as he put it, “has to do mainly with the Jews of Melli, Lameen and Loango, of which several Muslim, Jewish, Portuguese, German and English writers speak and on the links which exist between Ge’ez, Amharic and Agau of the Abyssinian peoples, and the idioms of the nations of Senegambia, Guinea and Congo, and the traces of the Coptic language which one encounters in the languages of the Sudan.” Markus maintained that a “colony of Abyssinian Jews, mixed with other inhabitants of this country and of Sennar, established itself in days gone by in the countries situated to the south-east of the mountains of Senegambia and to the east of Haute Guinée.” He continued: “I even think that the Jews of Melli, Lameeen and Loango, about whom I have collected some valuable documents, came from Abyssinia and it is for this reason that one finds in the languages of the people of Senegambia, Guinea and Congo, so many Ge’ez, Amharic, Agau and Hebrew words, which you do not find in Arabic” (Marcus.1829 p.16). It has not proved possible to trace Markus’s “valuable documents.” Perhaps they contained important historical information about Loango’s Jews, perhaps not. It is a pity, of course, because we have little information about this community, which would become a point of reference in Western discussions of human origins, race, alterity, and color for the next hundred years. The sparse information about this community provided by Oldendorp, Malte-Brun, Markus, and others constitutes little more than a footnote to Jewish history. However, metropolitan theorists were increasingly more interested not in how these Jews got there—or, indeed, if they got there at all—but rather in what, theoretically, their color had to say about some of the central issues of race. Many of the earlier controversial theories of human origins, as we have seen, had established Jews on the one hand and blacks on the other, as separate creations. What did this apparent hybrid have to say about that? Was this race a kind of monstrous race akin to the tribe of white negroes? This new hybrid was not like other easily explained hybrids for the good reason that it was universally acknowledged that Jews never intermarried with other groups. It might therefore shed some light on the mystery of human pigmentation. As the Jews of Loango would not have intermarried it followed that, unless they were converts to the Jewish religion, some other natural, external factor had led to their remarkable transformation from white to black. There had been references in Western travel and other literature to black Jews even before Oldendorp’s revelation. The existence of Jews in Cochin had been known among scholars in Europe since at least the sixteenth century, when Jesuit sources, such as the works of Alexander Valignano, referred to Cochin’s Jews. The Dutch minister and traveler Father Philip Baldaeus (1632–1671) mentioned that there were Jews in Cochin who were “neither white nor brown but quite black” in his book of travels, which was published in 1671 (Cf.Fischel.1962; Efron.1994). And at around the same time the Portuguese rabbi Menasseh ben Israel (1604–1657), in a pamphlet addressed to Oliver Cromwell urging the readmission of the Jews to England, noted that in Cochin there was a Jewish community “one part of these Jews being there of a white colour, and three of a tawny; these being most favoured by the King” (Segal.1983 p.235). However, whereas there was some knowledge of the fact that some of India’s Jews were black, this did not provoke any particular discussion among race theorists. It was Anton Friedrich Büsching’s Geschichte der jüdischen Religion (History of the Jewish Religion) (1779) and an article the following year in his Magazin für die neue Historie und Geographie (Magazine for the New History and Geography), as well the reviews of his book, that disseminated throughout the German-speaking world and beyond the idea that a color spectrum existed for the Jewish people and that there were white and black Jews in Cochin, black Jews in Bombay, and black Jews in Loango.14 Georg-August von Breitenbauch (1731–1817), the German Enlightenment geographer, also helped circulate this information in Vorstellung der vornehmsten Völkerschaften der Welt (Presentation of the Most Distinguished Peoples of the World) (1786).
In 1808, in De la littérature des nègres, abbé Grégoire made the point that there were good and bad types to be found among all peoples, including blacks and “Jews of all colors, as there were black Jews to be found in Cochin” (Grégoire.1808).15 Similarly, in 1812, Friedrich Carl Lang’s (1766–1822) Abriss der Sitten und Gebräuche aller Nazionen, oder kurze Darstellungen der merkwürdigsten menschlichen Wohnpläze, Beschäftigungen und Gewohnheiten in den fünf Theilen der Welt (Outline of the Manners and Customs of all Nations, or Brief Representations of the Strangest Human Dwelling places, Occupations and Manners in the five Regions of the World) revealed that “there are Jews of all colors, even very black ones on the coast of Malabar, in the district of Rajapur [and] in Loango. They, too, call themselves children of Israel, circumcize their sons, and observe the Sabbath.” Thus, following the widely disseminated discovery of black Jews in Loango in 1777, the news that Jews existed in many different hues rapidly became part of the store of contemporary knowledge, initially in Great Britain, France, and the German-speaking lands. Breitenbauch’s Vorstellung featured a list of all the Jewish communities throughout the world of which he was aware. The list included the recently discovered Jews of Loango, the black Jews of Cochin in southern India, and the Falashas of Ethiopia. In Loango, he wrote, “there are black Jews, who perhaps were originally negroes, who adopted the Jewish religion.” He applied the same strictures to the black Jews of Cochin, whom he described as converts, descended from Indian slaves. However, the Abyssinian Jews he considered to be “authentic” Jews, who had come from “Saba” in Arabia and in his day were living under the name of “Falasha” in “Dembea und Samen” (Breitenbauch.1785 p.12). A little later, in 1793, he went on to publish a map of the various populations of the world, which superimposed two partly overlapping systems, one containing seven or eight Bildungen (formations) on the basis of physique, and the other on the basis of seven colors. In this essentially polygenetic work Breitenbauch referred to Oldendorp’s black Jews but was careful to stipulate that they were not necessarily anything to do with the Jewish “race.”
His conviction that the black Jews of Cochin and the black Jews of Loango were descended from converts and slaves prevented either community from having to be presented as hybrids, which would not fit into his polygenist conviction that all races were immutable. A different perspective was produced in 1803 by Georg Friedrich Hildebrandt (1764–1816), the Enlightenment chemist, sleep expert, and naturalist from the University of Göttingen. In his school textbook Lehrbuch der Anatomie des Menschen (Textbook of Human Anatomy) he too introduced the topic of Jews “of color.” We do not know if he had come across the black Jews of Loango. However, his theories about color and pigmentation required an endogamous group that (1) could be counted on never to mix with surrounding populations, (2) was to be found in different parts of the world, and (3) was white in one place yet black in another. As he put it: “The Jews prove the effect of climate more than any other … because they only marry among themselves, therefore mixing with other nations will have contributed nothing to their transformation.” He observed: “The Jews scattered everywhere are whiter in northern areas, and darker in southern ones. In our areas, for instance, are to be found many Jews who are particularly white, as white as other Europeans. In Abyssinia the Jews are as black as negroes” (Hildebrandt.1803 p.325).16 Hildebrandt explained that the color changes that had occurred in the case of the Ethiopian Jews, from white to black, took a long time but nonetheless were entirely due to climate. “The Jews’ case,” he wrote, “shows that the changes in their progeny move very slowly and gradually.” In the same way, African slaves taken to North America remained perfectly black for a number of generations, but then under the influence of climate they could be expected to turn white. In the case of admixture with other peoples, “black people with whites beget so-called mulattoes, in cold as in hot climates, who are yellow. Mulattoes with Mulattoes beget yellow children. Mulattoes with blacks beget children who are blacker, Mulattoes with whites beget children who are whiter and so forth” (Hildebrandt.1803 p.326). An important 1813 work of medical classification, Geographische Nosologie (Geographical Nosology),17 by the German Enlightenment epidemiologist and medical geographer Friedrich Schnurrer (1784–1833), expressed a similar conviction. He believed that the natural world had a great influence on the development of living organisms and that the transformation of the color of people was a prime example of this. Schnurrer observed that in West Africa Portuguese settlers had become black and that further south, in Loango, climate had brought about the blackening of Jews.
These black Loango Jews, of a “negro formation” (bildung), who had achieved this feat of racial darkening, he described as following their religious rites with the same attention as in their homeland. As discussions about color developed throughout the nineteenth century, evocations of Jewish hybrid communities, “the Jews of all colors”—Loango’s black Jews, the white and black Jews of Cochin, the Falasha, or Jews of Ethiopia, plus other useful Jews of color, harvested from other parts of the world, whose numbers and sightings would grow throughout the century—became more and more important, for no less a reason than they helped to prove the unitary origins of humankind. Unknown to themselves, the black Jews of Loango had a considerable impact on the intellectual world of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the long race wars around the origins of humankind and the various types of people. From 1777, and the first discovery of the black Jewish hybrid by the German missionary scholar Christian Georg Andreas Oldendorp, and the subsequent discovery of many more black Jewish communities, the idea of a Jewish racial and color spectrum, which had been proposed in medieval iconography, became firmly established. Loango’s black Jews represented a fusion of negro and Jew, and the arrival of this hybrid was an important milestone on the path that led to a general conflation of blacks and Jews. They were largely responsible for an important “turn” in perceptions of Jews as racial objects, which started at the end of the eighteenth century and carried on, gaining force as it went, throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. … Black Jews and Sustaining the Doctrine of the Unity of Mankind The critical importance for race theorists of the black Jews of Loango, and growing numbers of black hybrid Jewish communities elsewhere, emerges clearly from a stray comment made in 1854 by Joseph Barnard Davis (1801–1881), a physician and fellow of the Royal Society. Davis was one of the polygenist British natural scientists who started thinking of racial difference not as a result of climate or other external agency, like the monogenists for whom climatic determinism was crucial, but as innate, unchanging, and biological. Polygenists increasingly looked for confirmation of racial hierarchies and signs of racial immutability in physiological aspects, one of which was the skull, interest in which started with the new discipline of phrenology, as postulated by the German physiologist Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828) in the late eighteenth century. Measurable human features, including bones, head angles, and skulls, were fast becoming accepted criteria for measuring human difference and would remain so for well over a century. Davis gathered 1,700 skulls from around the world—the biggest collection by far in Great Britain. Davis, who would eventually become one of the fiercest critics of the Darwinian model of organic development, believed that the study of the skull—“the palace of the soul,” together with bones, would prove the immutable racial character of different peoples.1 For Davis, the polygenist, the anxieties provoked by the startling expression of hybridity represented by the black Jews of Loango were not very different from the anxieties provoked by such hybrids in pre-Enlightenment days. Hitherto, weird folk or bestial hybrids, who were neither one thing nor another, candidates for inclusion in the “monstrous races” of the past, provoked consternation because they challenged the expected norms of the world. For Davis and generations of race scientists, the same thing was true. These Loango hybrids upset their cherished scientific views of how the world should be seen. Black Jews were a particular thorn in their flesh because of what they were taken to represent in terms of racial mutability. When Davis read Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, the most important English-language anthropological work of the pre-Darwin period, by James Cowles Prichard (1786–1848), he was struck most by one thing. In 1854 Davis wrote a letter to his polygenist colleague, the American physical anthropologist Josiah Clark Nott (1804–1873).
“In the whole of Prichard’s work,” he wrote, “the most striking circumstance … was that of the change of the Jews to black” (Nott, Gliddon.1854 p.414). For him, as for others, a key point in Prichard’s massively influential work was the issue of black Jews. For Davis the basic tenets of polygenism and the fixed, universal immutability and permanence of races was fatally undermined by the apparently magical transformation of white Jews into black Jews… The existence of the black Jews of Loango was an evident proof of the opposite phenomenon—racial darkening—and so was the color of the other black Jews in Ethiopia and India. Was it indeed possible that black, not white, was the original color of humans? Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824), the aesthete and “man of taste,” argued that “Adam in Paradise was an African Black.” And Prichard, along with the abbé Grégoire in France, also thought that the starting point in human pigmentation was probably black. He wrote: It must be concluded that the process of nature in the human species is the transmutation of the characters of the Negro into those of the European, or the evolution of white varieties, in black races of men. We have seen that there are causes existing which are capable of producing such an alteration, but we have no facts which induce us to suppose that the reverse of this change could in any circumstance be affected. This leads us to the inference that the primitive stock of men were Negroes, which has every appearance of truth. (Prichard.1813 p.233) And elsewhere he thundered: “There are no authenticated instances either in Africa or elsewhere, of the transmutation of other varieties of mankind into Negroes” (Prichard.1851 p.343). However, if Oldendorp was to be relied on, there was apparently an exception to this rule in the form of the black Jews of Loango, “whose physical characters have assimilated to those of the native inhabitants.” Initially, Prichard was ready enough to rely on Oldendorp, on whom he lavished extravagant praise, even though Oldendorp’s account got in the way of one aspect of his deeply held doctrine, and this “excellent missionary” was quoted frequently throughout the book as a reliable source on matters to do with African populations. In Physical Ethnography of the African Races, which appeared in the third edition of Researches (1837), he wrote: A remarkable fact in the history of Loango is that the country contains—according to a statement which was fully credited by Oldendorp, himself a writer of most correct judgment and of unimpeachable veracity—many Jews settled in the country, who retain their religious rites, and the distinct habits which keep them isolated from other nations. Though separate from the African population, they are black, and resemble the other Negroes in every respect as to physical character. (Prichard.1837 p.309) Clearly this was problematic.
If these Jews had not interbred with the negroes, which was a reasonable assumption as Jews were universally known to be endogamous, and assuming they had once been white, how could their blackness be accounted for? Prichard’s brief description of the Loango Jews was seized on by like-minded monogenists such as the Welshman Arthur James Johnes, county court judge, comparative philologist, and translator of the great Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym. He noted in his book, which attempted to prove the unitary origins of humankind from a philological standpoint, that from the facts collected by Dr. Prichard, it appears to follow very distinctly, not only that Human Physiology is extremely mutable, but also that the transitions do not occupy a very long interval of time. Thus, Jews are resident in the African Kingdom of Kongo, whose complexions are as black as those of the native Negro population. (Johnes.1846 p.xxix) In the sixty years between Oldendorp’s discovery and the publication of the third edition of Prichard’s Researches no traveler, missionary, or ethnographer had returned from west Africa with fresh information about the black Jews of Loango. No Jewish delegation had been sent to look into their condition. No merchant had recorded dealings with them. They had certainly been greatly discussed in German and French scientific writing particularly, but a question mark still hung over their authenticity. As a result, Prichard, meticulous researcher that he was, started to doubt whether the Loango Jews were really a reliable proof of color change. In the 1851 edition of Researches he admitted: We are not sufficiently informed respecting the fact asserted by Oldendorp, on the authority of his black informant, that there are many Jews in Congo, whose physical characters have assimilated to those of the native inhabitants. We have, however, examples of very considerable deviation in the opposite direction. The descendants of genuine Negroes are no longer such: they have lost, in several instances, many of the peculiarities of the stock from which they sprang. (Prichard.1853 p.343) Here Prichard is advancing his view that what he called “amalgamations” give rise not to hybrids, but rather to new races.
One of his examples for this was the Barabra or Nubian people of the Nile, who, while originating from negro mountaineers of Kordufan, in today’s central Sudan, and “exempt, as they are said to be, from intermixture with the Arabs, and other inhabitants of the Nile valley, have nevertheless, acquired and now display, physical characters of a very different description from those of the Negro” (Prichard.1853 p.343). However, the Loango Jews were not the only Jews to suggest that color change from white to black was possible: There were also the black Jews of Abyssinia. Prichard claimed that this community, clustered around “Jews’ Rock,” formed part of an ancient movement of peoples, which included Egyptian Jews, into western Abyssinia, where they were now to be found. He wrote: It is very probable that Judaism was introduced into Abyssinia, particularly the western provinces, through the medium of Ethiopia and the kingdom of Meroë and Napata… . Egypt at that time contained a great number of Jews, and it is probable that both Judaism and the Egyptian idolatry were spread from thence by way of Ethiopia and the Nile into the different provinces of Abyssinia. (Prichard.1837 p.147) His suggestion, then, was that there had been mixture between Egyptian Jews and other local peoples. The other black Jewish community about which he had some information was the critically important community of black Jews in Cochin. Prichard noted: They hold communication with each other in their eastern colonies, which appear to be of one stock or migration; but at what era they reached these countries it is unknown. Their residence in Cochin appears to have been from ancient times; and they are now black, and so completely like the native inhabitants in their complexion, that Dr. Claudius Buchanan says he could not always distinguish them from the Hindoos. He has surmised that the blackness of the Jews spread through different parts of India is attributable to intermarriage with Hindoos; but of this there is no evidence: it is probable that the preservation of the Jews in these countries as a distinct people, is owing, as elsewhere, to their avoiding all intermixture with the native inhabitants. Here Prichard clearly assumes that either the black Cochin Jews had always been black, or became black as a result of external factors, other than admixture with locals (Prichard.1855 p.132).
Few travelers had such impact as Prichard’s source, Dr. Claudius Buchanan (1766–1815).4 Under the influence of the evangelical Anglican churchman and former slave-ship master John Newton (1725–1807), Buchanan was ordained in the Church of England and in 1796 was appointed to a chaplaincy in Bengal. In 1806 and 1807, he traveled through south India and made the acquaintance of the Jewish communities in and around Cochin, alienating the Jews by obliging them to part with ancient Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts. In 1811 he wrote his highly successful Christian Researches in Asia, which by 1813 had gone through nine editions.5 Like Oldendorp’s earlier revelation about the existence of black Jews in Loango, Buchanan’s description of black and white Jews of Cochin also did something to change the attitudes towards color and human origins in the English-speaking world. As the American historian John Efron noted, Buchanan made a contribution to modern anthropology by pointing out that there was more than one kind of “Jewish type” in the world. Of course, as we have seen, Buchanan was not the first to do this. In fact, by his time, the idea of “Jews of all colors” had been well established in scientific circles by Büsching, Grégoire, and others. Nonetheless, Buchanan’s description of black Jews in India would be cited throughout the nineteenth century by geographers and historians, but particularly by naturalists, monogenist and polygenist alike (Efron.1994). The regular invocation of the issue of black Jews in the last years of the eighteenth century and the first eighty years or so of the nineteenth had an unintended effect of emphasizing that the generality of Jews was not black. However, the intended consequence of such conclusions was to prove various racial points of exceptional contemporary importance… there are black races in Africa, among the genuine descendants of emigrants from Arabia. Detachments of the Arabian family emigrated, eleven or twelve hundred years ago, into northern Africa, where they have founded states of some importance, and, in some instances, they have passed into a perfectly black complexion; although improved in form and stature, and notwithstanding that they reside to the north of the Negro countries. Indeed, in Fezzan “we have, with black skins, Negro faces, and woolly hair, a people descended from the white tribes of Arabia, and who still speak the language of that country.” The existence of black Jews in Loango was another example of this movement from white to black. “A remarkable fact,” wrote Armistead, “in the history of Loango, in the empire of Congo, is that the country … contains many Jews settled in it … Though thus separate from the African population, they are black, and resemble the other Negroes in every respect.” He added that he thought it likely that a black Jewish community in Africa, “the descendants of a colony of Jews, originally from Judea” (mentioned without any further detail by the well-known African-American writer and former slave Charles Pennington [1807–1870]), were also this community of Jews in Loango (Armistead.1848 p.65)… “
This was also taken from the text (this part is not in sequential order with the above excerpt), ” Carrying on with his reading, Beddoe came across The Great Sahara—Wanderings South of the Atlas Mountains (1860) by Canon Henry Baker Tristram (1822–1906), which had only just been published. The widely traveled and justly famous canon was a Bible scholar and ornithologist. He was traveling in the Sahara, partly for medical reasons, with the Rev. James Peed “also in quest of health.” According to the Spectator’s review of The Great Sahara, Peed “was the archaeologist and draughtsman of the party.” Both of them, according to the Spectator, were “hardy, good-humoured and sensible, as English gentlemen should be.” “Thus qualified,” their travels brought some interesting information about black Jews in Ouargla in southern Algeria, a very dark-skinned Jewish community in the desert town of Ghardaia, and a community of lighter-skinned Jews who had converted to Islam, called Mahadjeriah, in the neighboring former oasis sultanate of Touggourt. What Tristram and Peed discovered, Beddoe pointed out, in the remote oasis of “Waregla” (Ouargla) was a community of Jews “deeply stained with negro blood.” According to Tristram, these Jews afforded an interesting example of the effect of climate, which, in the course of generations, seems to have produced the dark coloring pigment. They were almost as black as negroes, much darker than their brethren of the M’zab and Wed R’hir; yet there was not the slightest trace of the negro features: all the lineaments were as distinctively Jewish as in any clothes-dealer in Houndsditch. They were as dark as the black Jews of Abyssinia, whom I have seen in Jerusalem … The Jews of Ghardaia, in the Wed M’zab, are also stated to be very dark, dark as Hindoos, but “with features intensely Jewish.”
Commentary On The This Text
These sources also show the slow breakdown of how black skin went from being beautiful (we have discussed in other posts how blacks were deified in the more ancient world) to being ugly and how white became right physically and metaphorically. Things got so bad that Jews themselves started saying long ago they were white and then became black due to a “curse” from God just as Hamitic nations were viewed as being “cursed”. The nation of Israel was broken down in every way possible.
During the age of the Gentiles, who are comprised of different Japhethic nations, white supremacy (which is a symptom of hate that stems from sin) has reigned for centuries. We see that many people clearly knew the Jews were black physically but many refused to believe they were originally black because in their minds “white is right”. This led to intense confusion in which elaborate hypothesis were formed in which “white” Jews were turning into “black” Jews even though many of these scholars knew Jews mostly kept to themselves. In my opinion, utilizing Occam’s Razor cuts down on confusion in this way: instead of trying to go with the elaborate hypothesis that white Jews were the original stock, why not go with the hypothesis that the black Jews were the original parent stock. Racially, in some ways as this book highlights, the Middle Ages was a time of great confusion because Japheth’s narrative became the focus and that narrative is rooted in white supremacy.
When examining Jews as a people racially, it is best to start at the beginning or start from the present day and then work your way back. Starting in the middle of the movie can be difficult for some to understand what is going on, so investigating a black people like Israel can be difficult if you start in the middle (in this case the Middle Ages) because it was a time of confusion when it came to race and color. Thank God we have more than enough sources to confirm undoubtedly that the bloodline Jews have always been a black people at the root with many different shades.
The same discrimination that Moors/Saracens were received due to their skin color and religion, was the same discrimination Jews received due to their skin color and religion. Jews and Moors were often conflated together, as well.