As one of the assigned texts for my course this quarter in “Christianity and Slavery in America, 1619-1865”, I’ve engaged David Brion Davis’ latest work on American slavery, Inhuman Bondage.  Davis, for those unacquainted with the scholarship on American slavery, has held a prominent place in groundbreaking discussion in the field for many years. This latest work presents something of synthesis of the most recent relevant scholarship in a sweeping effort to see American slavery as part of a global practice and, most especially, to articulate its transatlantic contexts.
A small part of Davis’ purpose (and a central component of the course in general) is to understand how the practice and ideology of slavery became integrated to Christianity, and to understand the way it influenced both the development of Christian theology and the course of Christian practice. Although Davis’ work does not have a particularly religious orientation (he seems, here at least, to focus on the secular social), his work is comprehensive enough to give a summary overview of slavery in Christian thought.
It was as a paradigmatic summary that I found Davis’ discussion of racism and its Christian iterations most interesting. Although it runs against other scholarly opinions and his own previous work, Davis gives great emphasis to the role of the “Curse of Ham” as unquestionably central in the way that racism was taken up into Christianity. (His argument is quite similar to that recently made here at the JI by David G.). Davis does not expend too much energy unpacking the text itself (which has been done exhaustively elsewhere; here seems dependent on secondary literature) or in demonstrating the way that it influenced Christian thought. He does not, for instance, show how the passage or other influences enabled racism to be taken up into Christianity.
Davis does, however, as part of his summary of racism in American Christianity, identify one group that he seems to regard as quintessentially invested in racist discourse: Brigham Young and the Mormons. As a result, Mormonism is situated rhetorically (and perhaps unconsciously), near the forefront of religious anti-black racism in the United States. Given as a solitary example, Mormonism appears to assume a position of prominence and high visibility.
Davis’ rendering, so far as I have been able to see, is representative of general narratives of American racism, which often use Mormonism in this way, typically seizing on popular (that is, widely recognized) statements made by Brigham Young or Joseph Smith to highlight the inroads that racism had made into Christianity. While the focused treatments of American religion, anti-black racism, and the Curse of Ham I have seen do not give Mormonism much play, for some reason broad-brush narratives like Davis’ not only include but highlight it.  It seems that for historians writing synthetically about racism and/or slavery, Mormonism is conceived in a uniform, normative way as representing the upper limits of Christian racism. The currency of this idea was demonstrated for me when my instructor, Curtis J. Evans, who published his The Burden of Black Religion with OUP recently and has no interest in Mormon history, invoked Mormonism in this way.  In fact, as one of his recommendations for research in the course, he suggested that Mormon anti-black racism might taken up.
Of course, Mormonism and racism have been thoroughly discussed in a number of inflammatory contexts. My interest here is not really to revisit those, but rather to investigate specifically whether Mormonism is fairly represented (in this respect) in broader, mainstream American social and cultural history. Does Mormonism deserve a singular or leading place in discussions of Christian anti-black racism in America? Is it fair to use Mormonism, as Davis and other modern historians seem to do (consciously or unconsciously), to epitomize or symbolize such racism? Might modern concerns with race influence retrospective conceptions of race in earlier eras of Mormonism?
 David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), see esp. 69-70.
 The works on the “Curse of Ham” and religious anti-black racism that I consulted include: David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003); Alan Davies, Infected Chrstianity: A Study of Modern Racism (Kingston, AB: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988), Sylvester A. Johnson, The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth-Century American Christianity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
 Curtis J. Evans, The Burden of Black Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).