Black Skin and Mixed Races
Despite the official end of slavery in America in 1865, the 1800's were a time of significant prejudice and inequality against African Americans.
It was during this time that religions such as the Watchtower Society and Mormons were formed.
This had an affect on some of the early views and teachings regarding black people and mixed races.
For example, it was explained in a 1904 Watchtower that in the New System the skin of black people could turn white.
Viewing the quotes chronologically reveals that in more recent decades the Watchtower promotes racial equality and the first black Governing Body member, Samuel Herd, was appointed in 1999.
Watchtower 1900 Apr 15 p.122
“There are probably as many as a hundred colored brethren on the Watch Tower lists, some of them very clear in the truth, and very earnest in its service, financially and otherwise. We have received letters from several of these, who had intended engaging in the volunteer work, expressing surprise that in the call for volunteers in the March 1st issue we restricted the inquiry to white Protestant churches. They rightly realized that we have not the slightest of race prejudice, and that we love the colored brethren with just the same warmth of heart that we love the white, and they queried therefore why such a distinction should be made in the call. The reason is that so far as we are able to judge, colored people have less education than whites - many of them quite insufficient to permit them to profit by such reading as we have to give forth. Our conclusion therefore is based upon the supposition that reading matter distributed to a colored congregation would more than half of it be utterly wasted, and a very small percentage indeed likely to yield good results.”
Watchtower 1901 Aug 15 pp.264-266
“We herewith supply additional evidence on this subject from highly creditable sources … that this foreign mission world conversion delusion is doing positive and serious harm to the Lord's true people…. “The Following reports of missionary efforts we clip from the Literary Digest:
… In commenting on the foreign results received for these vast sums, the special agent of Reynolds’ Newspaper gives the following facts, based on his study of the official missionary reports.
“’As to Africa one quotation may suffice. Sir H H. Johnson, our present Special Commissioner for Uganda, and a man of many years’ experience in Africa, says…
"'It too often happens that, while the negro rapidly masters the rules and regulations of the Christian religion, he still continues to be gross, immoral, and deceitful. … They (missionaries) may have succeeded in turning their disciples into professing Catholics, Anglicans, or Baptists; but the impartial observer is surprised to find that adultery, drunkenness, and lying are more apparent among the converts than among their heathen brethren.'
'I regret to say that, with a few - very rare - exceptions, those native African pastors, teachers, and catechists whom I have met have been all, more or less, bad men. They attempted to veil an unbridled immorality with an unblushing hypocrisy and a profane display of mouth-religion which, to an honest mind, seemed even more disgusting than the immorality itself. While it was apparent that not one particle of true religion had made its way into their gross minds, it was also evident that the spirit of sturdy manliness which was present in their savage forefathers found no place in their false, cowardly natures."
Watchtower 1902 July 15 The Negro Not A Beast pp. 215-216.
"While it is true that the white race exhibits some qualities of superiority over any other, we are to remember that there are wide differences in the same Caucasian (Semitic and Aryan) family; and also we should remember that some of the qualities which have given this branch of the human family its preeminence in the world are not such as can be pointed to as in all respects admirable. ... The secret of the greater intelligence and aptitude of the Caucasian undoubtedly in great measure is to be attributed to the commingling of blood amongst its various branches; and this was evidently forced in large measure by circumstances under divine control. ... Noah declared, prophetically, that Hams characteristics which had led him to unseemly conduct disrespectful to his father, would be found cropping out later, inherited by his son, and prophetically he foretold that this degeneracy would mark the posterity of Canaan, degrading him, making him servile. We are not able to determine to a certainty that the sons of Ham and Canaan are the negroes; but we consider that general view as probable as any other."
Watchtower 1904 February 15 pp.52-53
Can the Ethiopian change his skin? What the Ethiopian cannot do for himself God could readily do for him. The difference between the races of men and the differences between their languages have long been arguments against the solidarity of the human family. The doctrine of restitution has also raised the question. How could all men be brought to perfection and which color of skin was the original? The answer is now provided. God can change the Ethiopians skin in his own due time. Prof. H. A. Edwards, Supt. of Schools in Slater, Mo., has written for the public press an elaborate description of how Julius Jackson, of New Frankfurt, Mo., a negro boy of nine years, began to grow white in September, 1901, and is now fully nine-tenths white. He assures us that this is no whitish skin disease; but that the new white skin is as healthy as that of any white boy, and that the changed boy has never been sick and never has taken medicines
Watchtower 1914 Apr 1 p.105
"WE might have anticipated that many colored people would be deeply interested in THE PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION. But it did not impress itself upon us until gradually their number increased to about twenty-five per cent of the whole audience. Of course, we were glad to see them, glad that they were interested in the DRAMA. We had the same feeling respecting them as others; but it was quickly discerned that it was not a case of feeling, but that, whereas the colored people of New York City are about five per cent of the population, in our audiences they are about twenty-five per cent and the number increasing. What shall we do? As the attendance of the colored people would increase, proportionately the number of the whites would decrease; for explain it how we will, a majority of whites prefer not to intermingle closely with other races. Recognizing that it meant either the success or the failure of the enterprise of the DRAMA as respects the whites, we have been compelled to assign the colored friends to the gallery, which, however, is just as good for seeing and hearing as any other part of The Temple. Some were offended at this arrangement. We have received numerous letters from the colored friends, some claiming that it is not right to make a difference, others indignantly and bitterly denouncing us as enemies of the colored people. Some, confident that Brother Russell had never sanctioned such a discrimination, told that they believe it would be duty to stand up for equal rights and always to help the oppressed, etc. We were obliged to explain the facts, assuring all of our loving interest in the colored people, and of our desire to do them good, and not injury. We again suggested that if a suitable place could be found in which the DRAMA could be presented for the benefit of the colored people alone, we would be glad to make such arrangements, or to co-operate with any others in doing so. Our explanations were apparently entirely satisfactory to all of the fully consecrated. To these we explained that it is a question of putting either the interests of God's Cause first, or else the interests of the race first. We believed it our duty to put God first and the Truth first - at any cost to others or to ourself! We explained that we thought that all the colored brethren should know our attitude toward them - they should know that we love to serve them in any way possible and to give them the very best we have to give of the Gospel Message; and that it is only a question of whether our giving to them in one way would deprive us of giving the Truth to others. Some who were still tenacious and quarrelsome we merely reminded of our Lord's declaration that in inviting visitors into the house it is the place of the host to say where they shall sit, and then we showed them the parable of the man who chose the chief seat of honor and was given a lower one. In answer to the query as to how our course of conduct squared with the Golden Rule, we replied that it squares exactly. We would wish others to put God first. If our personal interests are or ever have been in conflict with the real and apparently best interests of the Lord's Cause, it is a part of our consecration vow to ignore our interests in favor of the interests of the Lord's Cause. This is what we mean by the declaration that we are dead to self and alive to our God as New Creatures. We reminded one dear sister that the Lord enjoins humility, and assures us that unless we humble ourselves we shall not be exalted. If nature favors the colored brethren and sisters in the exercise of humility it is that much to their advantage, if they are rightly exercised by it. A little while, and our humility will work out for our good. A little while, and those who shall have been faithful to their Covenant of Sacrifice will be granted new bodies, spiritual, beyond the veil, where color and sex distinctions will be no more. A little while, and the Millennial Kingdom will be inaugurated, which will bring Restitution to all mankind - restitution to the perfection of mind and body, feature and color, to the grand original standard, which God declared "very good," and which was lost for a time through sin, but which is soon to be restored by the powerful Kingdom of Messiah."
Golden Age 1919 Oct 15 p.44
"..from a criminal viewpoint the desirability of sobering the southern negro speaks volumes for national prohibition."
The Bible versus Evolution p.30
(God) has specially blessed and favored certain branches of the Aryan race in Europe and America. But the fact, that the white race has been more abundantly blessed with the light of the Gospel than others, is not to be understood to signify that when members of other races heard and appreciated the Gospel, they were repulsed or rejected by the Lord. While the elect Church will probably be composed chiefly of the highly favored white race, nevertheless, it will probably have in it representatives out of every kindred, people and tongue.
Golden Age 1929 Jul 24 p.702
"Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro? It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, 'Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,' he pictured the future of the Colored race. They have been and are a race of servants.. There is no servant in the world as good as a good Colored servant, and the joy that he gets from rendering faithful service is one of the purest joys there is in the world."
Awake! 1953 Oct 8 p.6
"South Africa's whole color policy is conditioned by this fact and this fear: 80 per cent of her population is black; if the color bar is breached, what new dike can stop a black flood from overflowing and destroying the civilisation with which white man have displaced the wilderness?"
Awake! 1953 Apr 22 p.11
"When all traits are considered, it is safer to marry a person near one's own age, of one's own race, and of similar interests, ideals and beliefs."
Watchtower 1973 Dec 1 pp.735-736 Questions From Readers
"What is the view of Jehovah’s witnesses toward interracial marriage?—France.
Jehovah’s witnesses at all times seek to reflect the Biblical view of matters. The Bible does not specifically discuss interracial marriage. It does, however, show how Jehovah God views humankind and it provides guiding principles for those considering marriage.
Superiority of race is nowhere taught or implied in the Bible. Jehovah God accepts as his approved servants people out of all races, without discrimination. The Bible tells us “[God] made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth, and he decreed the appointed times and the set limits of the dwelling of men, for them to seek God, if they might grope for him and really find him.” (Acts 17:26, 27) “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
So, the Bible nowhere implies that racial differences in themselves have anything to do with the properness of marriage. Of the remarriage of widows, the apostle Paul wrote: “A wife is bound during all the time her husband is alive. But if her husband should fall asleep in death, she is free to be married to whom she wants, only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) Thus the Christian is free to marry anyone who is Scripturally and legally free to do so, as long as that one is truly a fellow believer.
Are there any other factors, then, worth considering? Yes, for Christians seek to exercise good judgment and wisdom in all they do. Among other things, they are encouraged to “go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside,” those outside the Christian congregation.—Col. 4:5.
In many areas interracial marriages are becoming increasingly common. People are traveling more, and often find the ways and customs of people of other lands attractive. War, too, has played a part, and many European and North American soldiers have married Asiatic wives. There is, then, a somewhat broadened viewpoint on the part of many toward interracial marriage.
Nevertheless, not all persons share this broadened viewpoint, nor do all appreciate Bible standards. Many deep-seated prejudices remain in the world of mankind. A Christian, being realistic, must face life as it is—not as he wishes it might be.
In a few places, there are even laws making interracial marriages illegal. When that is the case, Christians are under Scriptural obligation to obey them, as such laws do not make it impossible for them to worship God with “spirit and truth.” (John 4:24; Rom. 13:1) Of course, if a Christian would prefer to move to a locality where such laws are not enforced, he is certainly free to do so.
In other communities, local prejudices produce discrimination and unkind treatment toward those of certain races of mankind. These prejudices do not make interracial marriage wrong. For the discerning Christian, nonetheless, they may give cause for thought as to the advisability of such marriage. No matter what the racial backgrounds of the mates, marriage of itself requires much adjustment on the part of both persons to be successful and to bring happiness. Human imperfection causes all marriages to bring some measure of ‘tribulation in the flesh,’ as the apostle Paul wisely points out. (1 Cor. 7:28) In certain localities, where racial prejudices are strong, this could put added strain on the marital relationship and could be especially trying for any children resulting. So the Christian should give thoughtful consideration to the probable consequences before entertaining the prospect of interracial marriage.
Persons of different races may have very similar backgrounds, culturally, socially and as to education. Or their backgrounds may be very different. Sometimes the varied habits, attitudes and customs that go with different backgrounds seem to add interest to the marriage union. Yet widely differing backgrounds, even among marriage mates of the same race, can and sometimes do give rise to problems, making marital adjustment more difficult. In making his decision, the Christian should also rightly weigh these factors—for the other person’s happiness as well as his own.
The Christian is under obligation to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to others. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) As a factor, then, he may consider whether or not interracial marriage is likely to create a seriously adverse effect on the attitude of the people in his community toward this Kingdom-announcement work . The examples of Christ Jesus and his apostles show that they were willing to forgo things to which they had a right rather than severely hinder persons from being receptive to the truth of God’s Word.—Rom. 15:3; 1 Cor. 10:32, 33.
However, after weighing all these factors thoughtfully, each Christian must make his own decision—in good conscience and motivated by love for God and for his neighbor."
Watchtower 2011 January 15 page 15
Further ReadingJehovah's Witnesses and Racial Prejudice - Werner Cohn (1953)