A Brief History of Racism in Watchtower Publications

by cedars 56 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • cedars

    Thanks wasblind, your hug is gratefully accepted! The "waiting on Jehovah" argument against activism is a curious one. Clear struggles between right and wrong should require no divine prompting for people to take a righteous stand, especially with issues surrounding race where the bible is already saying "God is not partial".

    Giordano - yes, the cowardice shown by Rutherford in trying to cosey up to Hitler was shameful. It's hard to believe we didn't see it when we were inside. Mind you, this information is deliberately suppressed, so it's little wonder we were in ignorance.


  • kepler

    Is racism today or is this divide and conquer?

    When my fiancee decided she was going back we were living at the same address. Since my now deceased parents were of mixed religious background, Catholic and Protestant, I thought it would be of some help to take instruction in her faith. We were not only of mixed religious background but different race - black and white.

    One day someone from the Kingdom Hall that my fiance had now started to attend dropped off at my office (!) a copy of "What the Bible Really Teaches". Subsequently I began to take instruction - and I have remarked on some of my observations elsewhere. What I want to note here is that I was instructed by Elders from a different congregation, purportedly because we were from "different social economic groups". To confound categorization, the instructors, save for an Overseer who visited on the last day, were black like my fiancee. When this decision of separating us was made, she didn't even blink but pronounced it like an officer of a very rigid corporate organization. Subsequently I never saw her ever again stand up to the organization's authority about anything that might have involved us personally. Everything melted away like an ice cube.

    I hadn't realized how compelling the arguments for an eternal corporate picnic could be.

  • JW GoneBad
    JW GoneBad

    Dec 1, 1973 Watchtower Pg 735 & 736 ?What is the view of Jehovah’s witnesses toward interracial marriage?

    Blondie's research of the above article surely brings back some memories. I remember this article. And I remember when interracial marriages were frowned upon among JWs. Oh how times and the belief system among JWs has changed.

    This article is yet another example of the WTBTS placing its' big foot in its' own big mouth!

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Slavery was once a universal experience. According to the leading scholar on slavery, we are all the descendents of slaves and descendants of slave owners. The Atlantic Slave Trade was pernicious b/c it introduced the element of race to slavery. Slaves were an equal opportunity status in the past. The first engagement of the US Marines was to protect US citizens taking as slaves in Tripoli. White slaves were common in Arab countires.

    Once the economics proved rewarding, the theology of Ham developed.

    Sometimes fear of class warfare masquerades as racism. The WT was truly racist. The statements Cedars reported show how ignorant and evil the WT leaders were. Yet we believed their teachings of the Bible and prophecy. The Quakers never bowed to societal pressure. Jesus' command to love one another is not qualified.

    Racism has been discussed in the past. This is the most moving info that I have seen. Thanks.

  • wasblind

    I just want to scream, knowin' that the WTS does not allow the sheep a voice

    through the legal means of a vote. To be able to change the unjust laws they are forced to abide

    What ever happened to give to Ceasar what belongs to ceasar and what belong to God give to God???

    the WTS claims that God has allowed human governments to rule, to keep order

    Voting gives order to a voice, that wants to be heard, through a peacible means

    and Ceasar ( The goventment ) allows us that voice, because God allowed

    Ceasar to give it to us

    without a legal and orderly means to change things, forces people into unlawful situations

    under the jim crow law a lot of things we do today would be illegal, and yet the WTS says abide

    wait on the kingdom

  • Mr. Falcon
    Mr. Falcon

    this is the greatest thing i've ever seen.

  • Mr. Falcon
    Mr. Falcon

    Is there any documented proof that this stuff was said? I believe it, but I was hoping for something that I could show to a JW apologist.

    Truly mind-blowing stuff. Great work, Cedars.

  • minimus


  • fulltimestudent

    Thanks for effort you've put into the research, Cedars. Its useful to have that as a resource.

    The greatest value that I can see in this though, is that it demonstrates that the "thinking" of the Bible students/Jehovah's Witnesses is the "thinking" of humans, as indeed is ALL religious thought on this earth, since there seem to be no divinities in the universe who pass on logical, rational ideas to humans.

    I would like to point out that the racist ideas you've highlighted in the WT literature, merely expresses common attitudes in the 19th and a good part of the 20th centuries. Attitudes that were based on imagining a world controlled by Europeans and that needed to rationalise that situation.

    The basis for these racist attitudes has been analysed by academic John M. Hobson (the great-grandson of J.A.Hobson) in his book The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation. (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Hobson argues (Ch 10) that European (including the USA) Imperialism attempted to explain and justify their dominance of the world. Europeans (whites) by their success, could be glorified as "the lords of mankind." Their imperial ambitions would be spread through their military superiority, through capitalism to control economies, and through science to provide a new knowledge for all, and through politicians to spread the message of democracy (albeit limited at first), and used the missionising of the world by churches to provide an alternative (superior in their eyes) philosophical basis for western dominance.

    Using the new ideas of Social Darwinism and "scientific racism," and as the leading European power, the British particularly incorporated racist ideas into their thinking and graded the world as they saw it, into categories.

    At the top, in the Premier Category, dominating all, were the Anglo-Saxon British.

    Then came:

    Category 1: Europeans, with the Germans at the top, followed by the Catholic French and so on, to the Catholic Portuguese at the bottom. The Catholic Irish were abitrarily excluded from this category and located in category 3. In the eyes of the British, the Irish were the 'missing link' between the gorilla and the negroes. Whether or not that was meant to be satirical is beside the point. It illustrates how race was being used to imagine the world as dominated by the Anglo-saxon British. Hobson provides quite a range of writers from the era who spout this concept of the world.

    Category 2, consisted of essentially Asian " yellow/barbaric" peoples.

    Category 3, races (mostly black- but including the Irish) were gauged as barely human. A typical attitude may be seen in Edward Long's claim, "I do not think that an orang-outang husband would be any dishonour to a Hottentot female." ( History of Jamaica).

    Surrounded by this pseudo-scientific thinking, it is little wonder that the Russel and Rutherford fell victim to the idiocy of these ideas.

    Even as late as the end of the 19th C, we have Rudyard Kipling writing, The White Man's Burden, in support of Theodore Roosevelt' invasion of the Phillipines and the very nasty war waged by the US, against Phillipino Independence fighters.

    If you have not read Kiplings excursion into racism, you can easily google a copy. Kipling describes Phillipino's as "half devil and half child." And writes of whites sacrificing their best young men to subjugate and then educate Asians and Blacks*

    Of course, it was not only the predeccessors of the JWs that held to these racist notions, many other religions accepted these ideas. After all, Western Imperialism opened the path for their missionary efforts.

    "thank you Jesus for opening the way."

    * Imagine the shock then, when the Japanese defeated the Russians in their 1905 war. Yellow men defeating whites. Shocking!!

  • Juan Viejo2
    Juan Viejo2

    Mr. Falcon,

    Cedars provided photocopies of just about everything he quoted. True, they are excerpts, but you can get PDF copies of all of the original magazines at:


    archive.org has copies of all the old books and magazines from about 1946 back to the beginning. So yes, copies of complete magazines are available.

    I can assure all of the readers of this thread that Cedars only scratched the surface. He could easily find enough documentation and personal testimonies to do several more articles on the subject of racism in and out of the organization.

    I was raised in Riverside, California and spent most of my youth as a JW there. My best friend at the time was an African-American fellow who was also a JW.

    I remember when I was married in the Kingdom Hall and was 19 years old, I told my parents that I wanted a young man (about 5 years older than I) to be my best man. He had just been released from federal prison at Terminal Island (Long Beach, CA) after spendng two years for being a JW conscientious objector. He also happened to be black, but was much beloved by all in the congregation and was the blood brother of a lady that my mother had "studied into the truth."

    My brother was too young, and my best friend had personal issues that prevented him from standing in for me. So I wanted Norvell (the young African-American) to stand in as my best man. When the word got around, I had several white JWs come up to me and ask me if I "thought that was the best thing to do?" They also approached my fiance (who was not yet a baptized JW) how she felt about having a black person in her wedding party.

    Understand that this was 1962. Riverside, CA was not known for being an extremely racist town (there was more discrimination against Hispanics than blacks in our town), but it was still geographically divided as far as neighborhoods were concerned (California's Unruh Equal Housing Act would not be passed for another few years.) We had several Hispanics and African-Americans in our congregation and there was no obvious discrimination among JWs.

    But this is what happened about two weeks before the wedding: I first get a call from the Assistant Congregation Servant. He wanted to double check about having a black person as my best man. "Are you really sure the bride and her family are OK with that?"

    I replied that my wife's family were not coming to the wedding (they were Catholic and opposed to our marriage), and that the best man was the choice of the groom and the maid/matron of honor was the choice of the bride. "Those are the choices we've made. I'm OK with her choice and she is OK with mine."

    "OK. You may get a call from the Congregation Servant. He may have to get an OK from the Circuit Servant and maybe the District Servant to go ahead with the wedding, but we'll get back to you."

    A few days later my father called me and told me that the CongServ had called him and gently urged him to get me to change my mind. My dad said, "The Congregation Servant suggested several other brothers like "JDT" (who was a closeted gay) and "RH" and "BD" - all friends of yours. It's up to you, John, and you know we love Norvell, but you have to consider their suggestions."

    Also undertstand that the Congregation Servant and the Assistant CS were both close friends of my family, and also loved Norvell and his family. They are as far from being racist as any white man could claim to be in the early 1960s. But they were getting cold feet.

    What is surprising about this incident is that they were reluctant for me to choose a black man to stand for me - a man who was a baptized and dedicated JW - in fact a pioneer publisher - and someone who had just gone to prison for holding to his faith. And yet they never once suggested that the wedding should not go on in the Kingdom Hall due to the fact that my bride-to-be was not yet baptized! I believe that even then, both parties in the wedding had to be baptized JWs (this may have been added later - not sure). But that issue never came up because my fiance was attending meetings and going along with us in field service.

    I've written other posts about the subtle racism that existed in the 1960s (blacks in one car, whites in another; no black servants at the time, not even someone like Norvell; and many other little issues that existed). All of the Kingdom Halls in the US southern states were segregated. Whites could visit (and were welcomed) in black Kingdom Halls. Blacks were discouraged from going to white Kingdom Halls, but JWs would not reject them if they did. They just could not be members there.

    Cedars has done a great job on this subject. As usual, my praise for his work can not match its actual value to us all.


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