Amarantha’s Unwitting Choice

In The Duke when young, vibrant Lady Amarantha Vale sets sail for Jamaica, she carries with her a yearning for passionate adventure and a heart full of sincere love, but also a head woefully ignorant of the world she’s chosen to enter–especially the man she is betrothed to marry. It’s not long before she comes to understand her terrible error (and fortunately a young naval officer is conveniently there to help her come to see another, nobler reality!).

When I researched and wrote The Duke, I didn’t yet know about this “History Tidbit” I’m sharing here. But it’s a perfect and perfectly horrible example of the continuous attempts that plantation owners and missionaries made in those years to maintain the status quo and therefore their power and wealth in the colonies.

The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is displaying a Bible published in 1807 intended for missionaries to use to convert enslaved people in the British West Indies to Christianity. But it wasn’t the entire Christian scriptures. Not even close. Massively abridged, it had been stripped of every passage—in both the New and Old Testaments—that could possibly inspire enslaved people to revolt in the hope of liberty, while still allowing a missionary to preach the tenets of Christianity that were palatable to the planter class. Published the same year that Parliament banned the slave trade throughout the empire, but before emancipation in 1833, it reveals how deviously the planter class fought to hold onto the heinous system upon which all their wealth was based.

For the whole story of this Bible–including pictures of it–check out the article by Michel Martin “Slave Bible from the 1800s Omitted Key Passages that Could Incite Rebellion.”

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