John Milton writes in Paradise Lost of a “vitious Race,” which many scholars have taken to signal his endorsement of the slavery of Black Africans. Yet these scholars often mistakenly associate Milton’s language with certain contemporary views that were indeed racist. For Milton, the “curse” on the “vitious Race” does not refer to a European subjugation of Black Africans in the slave trade but is at once more general and more specific. He subsequently in the epic applies this curse specifically to Israel’s conquest of the Canaanite people while also suggesting the impact of the curse on many “Nations,” including his own England.

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