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Jun 14, 2022

How a Black Family’s Bible Ended Up at the Smithsonian Institution

On a rainy spring afternoon, Denise Diggs visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. She was in search of a family artifact.

Wearing jeans and a blue windbreaker, she blended in with other Washington tourists, until she descended into a dimly lit exhibition area. There, Diggs began weaving in and out of visitors engrossed by the remnants of a slave ship, a wrought-iron slave collar and a six-foot statue of Thomas Jefferson standing in front of a wall of stacked bricks memorializing the hundreds of humans he owned.

Diggs was on a mission — to find a Bible once owned by her family’s patriarch.

A few steps down the hall, she discovered it, amid relics highlighting the experiences of enslaved people and the role faith played on the plantation. The 62-year-old grew teary as she stared at the Bible; it was opened to the first chapter of the Book of Exodus, which recounts the Hebrews being placed in bondage in Egypt. This was the first time she had seen the Bible on display, protected behind thick glass.

Diggs turned and noticed a tourist wearing glasses was staring at her.

“It belonged to my great-grandfather,” Diggs said, dabbing away tears as she pointed to the book.

“Oh, my goodness,” the tourist replied. “Incredible.”

You can read much more about this historical artifact in an article by Erin B. Logan published in the Los Angeles Times web site at: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-06-13/black-history-bible-smithsonian.

My thanks to newsletter reader Jackie Feldman for telling me about this article.