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        Our Alma Mater
                                                                                            June 2022

One of the Three Remaining "Slave Bibles" in the World

Found in Special Collections at the Fisk University Library

Article contributed by William Spivey, Class of ‘77
Photo by Carol Spivey

I wrote about this slave Bible before having a chance to see and touch it. What’s different about this Bible isn’t because of anything added, it’s about what has been taken out. Slave Bibles were originally distributed in the British West Indies to slaves there in an attempt to control their minds and prevent revolution.

This version of the Bible was produced by British clergy in 1807, a few years after the Haitian Revolution ended and Haitians won their freedom from France through revolution. The British didn’t want to see their enslaved people lost to them, so they used religion to convince them that God wants compliance and obedience. The slave Bibles eliminate all instances of revolt, particularly the story of Moses in Exodus. The story of Pharaoh letting Moses people go was one the British (or Americans) didn’t want to spread. This version cut a significant portion of the Old Testament and some of the New Testament including the Book of Revelations.

Most enslaved people in America were prohibited from learning to read but this new Bible was an exception. The Colonies were interested in showing the rest of the world they were Christians bringing the heathen enslaved people out of the darkness. They also taught the enslaved about a great God that demanded they obey Him and their white masters.

The church was a vessel in America to promote proper behavior of the enslaved, extol hard work, and reverence for their human master. Black people including many of the enslaved were allowed to attend church services, provided they were controlled by white clergy. Enslaved and free Blacks were encouraged to hear selected sermons and passages from a slimmed-down Bible.

I’m now thinking about the role of Christian missionaries across the world. Was their mission not only to spread their faith but destroy the existing faith of the natives, ultimately to weaken and slave them?

I recently visited my alma mater Fisk University where one of the three remaining slave Bibles in the world exists. In the Special Collections section, I was allowed to hold that Bible and while wearing special gloves, turn the pages. I write often about history but seldom hold it in my hand. In another area was a full Bible presented by Black people to Abraham Lincoln after the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Fisk University is not only a repository for historical artifacts, the school itself is history. Fisk was one of the first HBCUs, founded in 1866. The Jubilee Singers raised funds for the first permanent structure on their international tour where they performed before Kings and Queens. Fisk played a major role in the Civil Rights movement and coordinating the Freedom Riders. Leaders associated with the University include W.E.B. Du Bois, John Hope Franklin, and Nikki Giovanni. The slave Bible might have been intended to lead the enslaved astray, but Fisk University served to set them straight.

Fisk Forever!

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        Our Alma Mater
December  2021

A Return to the Yard

Remember when…

Remember your first visit to “the yard?” Remember walking down the beloved Oval, sitting on the fence by the café, waiting for your best friend, your soror, your frat? Remember Crab Night, the frats first march, sitting in the window of your dorm- looking at life pass by? Returning to Fisk this year is even more special for incoming students following a global pandemic and having to adjust to virtual study.

Fisk, our beloved home, a place where the air certainly is majestic and rarified is a special space, creating special bonds between students, professors and our leadership. The beauty of the campus is only superseded by the relationships we’ve all established, the lifelong friendships. Last year marked a historic year for Fisk University. For the fifth consecutive year, Fisk set a fundraising record and the overall financial health of the Institution is stronger than ever.

Fisk once again saw an increase in overall enrollment as well as the academic profile of the incoming class (with average above 23 ACT and 1150 SAT). The total student population reached 940 students this fall, which is the largest student body in two decades. Under the steady leadership of Dr. Newkirk, incoming students hail from 24 states and over 35% of them ranked in the top 10% in their respective high schools. Biology remains the largest major and Fisk’s reputation for STEM excellence continues to grow with our amazing partnerships in industry, as well as academia.

This year we celebrate 150 years of the Jubilee Singers, our greatest ambassadors. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the ensemble, the Fisk Jubilee Singers hosted and performed at a benefit concert at the historic Ryman Auditorium on November 11th in Nashville.  Jens Frederickson, EVP at Fisk said, “The voices of the Fisk Jubilee Singers have inspired generations across the country and the world, and today’s ensemble continues to exemplify everything that makes Fisk University such a special place.”

Be inspired to return to Fisk in 2022 for our All Class Reunion. Despite the challenges during the pandemic Fisk continues to build momentum; with all the amazing support the University is finally able to address some of the campus infrastructure as well as some of its strategic objectives. Major renovations are under way and the Roland Parish Building is targeted for completion in December.

We remember. Please remember Fisk in your end of year giving and we will all gather again in May to celebrate Fisk and what it’s meant collectively to each of us.

Fisk Forever!

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        Our Alma Mater
June  2021

Springtime at Fisk – Growth, Renewal, New Beginnings

Springtime is always special on the Fisk campus. The campus is lush and green and the blossoming cherry trees are beautiful.  And the excitement of graduating students as well as returning alumni is palpable.  While we bask in fond memories during this season it is also a time for growth, renewal and new beginnings, and much of that has been occurring at Fisk. Highlights of significant news items reported by the University include those summarized below, with links to the full news releases.

Investments in the University

During the first half of 2021 the University has seen a surge in donations supporting growth and improvement across various areas of the institution, including:

  • $2.5 million in support of the John Lewis Center for Social Justice, the single largest gift from a Nashville family since Fisk’s inception in 1866.

  • $1.1 milliion from an anonymous donor to fund 10 graduate students in astrophysics, physics, and materials science the Fisk Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program. Fisk has a nationally acclaimed STEM program and Fisk alumni earn more doctorate degrees in the natural sciences than African-American graduates from any other college or university in the nation.

  • $500,000 from the Brewer Foundation to aid in the renovation of the University’s science labs.

  • $500,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the conservation, and other improvements, of the Fisk University Galleries.

  • $180,000 from the Council on Library and Information Resources to the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library to digitize the Fiskiana Collection.

Exciting Additions to Academic Programs

Fisk has announced a 4-year graduation pledge that includes a bonus Master’s degree at a reduced cost and the opportunity for automatic admission into one of four Master’s programs; Social Justice, Psychology, Healthcare Management, and upon SACSCOC approval, Executive Leadership where students can continue their preparations for a successful future.

The University has also received approval of its new Master’s program in Healthcare Management program that will provide business, management, and leadership skills. The 18-month program prepares graduates for careers such as healthcare administration, healthcare management and training, healthcare marketing, healthcare economics, health law, and health IT.

Since 2019 Fisk has been offering degree programs for students who have an interest in finishing  incomplete degrees, providing an opportunity for students at any age or level of completion. The “Finish with Fisk” program offers two degree paths for potential students along with access to on campus counseling and support services to facilitate success. This program has seen many students return to complete their degrees at Fisk, representing a win-win opportunity for all.

Recent Faculty Additions

Dr. John D. Jones has been appointed to serve as the new Provost & VP For Academic Affairs for Fisk University effective June 1, 2021. Dr. Jones currently serves as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of Graduate Studies at Alabama A&M University. Welcome Dr. Jones!

Renowned journalist and television personality Roland Martin will serve as the University’s inaugural “Reavis L. Mitchell,” Distinguished Scholar in Residence. Mr. Martin will be teaching current affairs and will have an affiliation with the Fisk Honors Program.  Students will undoubtedly be excited by his presence on campus.

Excellence in the Classroom and Beyond

Three Fisk students from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences were recently named as fellows for the UNCF/Mellon Mays Undergraduate fellowship.  Sophomores Connor Joseph, Jasmine Mitchell, and Chaunece Reed were selected for this competitive program that aims to increase the number of talented undergraduates who choose to enroll in Ph.D. programs and have a serious interest in becoming college professors. Congratulations to Connor, Jasmine and Chaunece for continuing the Fisk tradition of MMUF scholars.

The entire Fisk University family shared the excitement of a 2021 GRAMMY® win for the Fisk Jubilee Singers’® album, Celebrating Fisk! (The 150th Anniversary Album), in the Best Roots Gospel Album category. With this collection of songs the Fisk Jubilee Singers once again have made the Fisk family proud and brought global recognition to the University.

Fisk University athletics will return to the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, effective this coming fall season. Fisk Athletics compete in volleyball, outdoor track & field and basketball among GCAC-sponsored sports to go along with golf, men’s soccer and indoor track & field and looks forward to the competitive rivalries within the conference.

Moving Forward Post-Pandemic

The University is planning for what will be a more normal fall semester in which most classes will be held in a traditional face-to-face format. As the University continues to transform lives via academic excellence and a treasured student experience, the growth, renewal, and new beginnings occurring on its campus foretell an even more prodigious future.  Fisk Forever!

Fisk Forever!

Fisk University, in its educational programs and activities involving students and employees, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or age. Furthermore, the university does not discriminate against veterans or individuals with disabilities.