The Lord’s Back Was Black

The poem is Jesus speaking to a slave master while he beats his slave. It explores the paradoxical reality of Christian slave owners in the 19th century. It speaks from the perspective of Jesus who identifies with the oppressed, persecuted, and marginalized. This assumption is drawn from the passage when Jesus spoke to Paul saying “Why are you persecuting me?” Instead of saying “Why are you persecuting them.” Jesus groups himself with the disenfranchised church. It is the same here, Jesus groups himself with the slaves in the antebellum South. It looks at the dark irony of these slave owning Christians and, though it is speaking to them in historical context, it questions how many times we twist morality to fit our own worldview in the present day.

To watch Kelly Brown-Douglas’ lecture, “Stand Your ground in the Legacy of Slavery,” follow this link.

The Lord’s Back Was Black

You mar my flesh with whip and chain
Don’t you know?
Each strike disfigures your own soul.

You spit on me, blind with rage
Don’t you know?
Spit once healed a blind man

You make me eat in troughs like an animal
Don’t you know?
I feast on the living bread

Listen to me, now, for the first time.

Each chain you loop around my head binds you tighter.
Each lash you place on my back scars our history.
Each word used to curse their skin, is but an alternate pronunciation of my name.

You are Judas.

For 30 silver pieces, you sold what was priceless.

You are Pontius Pilate.

You watched my torture and did nothing.

You are Simon Peter.

You defended me with your sword, but denied me in the streets.

I called you to be Israel, but you became Pharaoh.
Enslaving my people to build your altars.
Before I free them, I will take your firstborn.
And wrench the sea into two.

Yes, I spoke to Paul and asked him
Why he persecuted me.
Now you prepare your answer.
As you look down and realize,
He that was stripped of his garments
Was also torn from his past
He that slept on a boat amidst a storm
Also lay, restless, in the bottom of a slave ship
He that carried the cross
Now lies bruised beneath your whip.

Perhaps then you will look closely

And in that moment, see

That your Lord’s back was black.


DAVID jpg David Michael is a Sophomore with a major in Business Administration, and a minor in Computer Science. With interests in finance, investing, and history, he seeks to use creative writing as a form of self-expression and social commentary.

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