Cursed with a Skin of Blackness African Americans and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 1940s and 1950s
Amber Meek Malek
University of Utah
Published in Historia: the Alpha Rho Papers, Vol II.
The late 1940’s and 1950’s were times of great social change in regard to race relations in the United States. African Americans and sympathetic Whites struggled to establish integrated and equal communities. The civil rights movement was met with significant resistance and the state of Utah was not immune from the tension. One of the most hotly debated topics in the state was the position of African Americans within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the time, the LDS Church did not grant African Americans the same status within church hierarchy as those of other races, and church members were increasingly called to defend that position.
The LDS Church consistently used scriptural evidence to discriminate against African Americans. While the Church’s level of discrimination was not necessarily out of line with society in general, the philosophy behind the discrimination was unique. Use of pamphlets, church records, personal correspondence, newspaper articles and other primary sources illustrate the relationship between African Americans and the LDS Church. Dissenting views from within the Church and society in general are also presented.
These findings illustrate a complex relationship between the African American community and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While African Americans were welcomed as members of the Church during the period of civil rights, they did not share the same privileges as their counterparts of other races. The discrimination was unique to the LDS Church because it was not strictly practice but was rooted in and defended by Church doctrine.