Fisk University Partners with the Museum of the Bible and the Smithsonian for Slave Bible Exhibition

Fisk University loans rare Slave Bible to the Museum of the Bible for special exhibition

written by Brandy Medders, Communications Manager

 slave bible release

Nashville, Tenn., December 3, 2018 – Fisk University partnered with the Museum of the Bible and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for a special exhibition featuring the rare Slave Bible. The bible, Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands, has been on loan at the Museum of the Bible since November 2017. Due to the popularity of the artifact, the Museum of the Bible offered to partner with Fisk University and the Smithsonian to create a special exhibition that explores the Slave Bible’s role in the struggle for freedom. The exhibition, The Slave Bible: Let the Story Be Told, opened on November 28 at the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.

“This past year is the first time the Slave Bible has been on display anywhere other than Fisk,” said DeLisa Minor Harris, special collections librarian. “To have something this rare on display nationally to the public speaks to its interesting history.”

There are only three known copies of the Slave Bible in existence. One copy belongs to Fisk University, and the other two are located in the United Kingdom. Harris has stated that Fisk University librarians and archivist are unsure how and when the book came to the university. It has been in Fisk University’s special collection for over 50 years, and many believe it was brought over by the Fisk Jubilee Singers© when they returned from singing for Queen Victoria on their European tour.

The original Slave Bible was published by Law and Gilbert publishing house in London in 1807, and the copy belonging to Fisk University was published the following year. It was published on behalf of the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves to educate enslaved Africans and preserve the system of slavery. It excluded any portion of the bible that might inspire liberation. This rare artifact features selections from the Holy Bible that were used to defend slavery during most of the abolition movement. It omits most of the Old Testament and around half of the New Testament.

A committee was formed at Fisk University to oversee the creation of this special exhibition. The Museum of the Bible will host a multitude of special events to promote the exhibition over the next year including panels, performances and conferences. Fisk University committee members are anticipating to attend a few of these events to represent the university’s contribution to the exhibition.

The exhibition will be on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. until November 2019.