By April 10, 2015
Max Perry Mueller uses a clever title, ?History Lessons,? in his essay on ?Race and the LDS Church? in the fiftieth anniversary edition of the Journal of Mormon History. ?History Lessons? implicate some form of historical appropriations. Institutions use history to formulate lessons, which support certain values and ways of knowing. Mueller traces how the LDS Church alters historical narratives of a ?black Mormon past? through three main time periods to argue ?the LDS Church has worked to tell a story of historical continuity in its relationship with people of African descent? (143).
By April 5, 2018
Below is Max Perry Mueller’s response to JI’s roundtable on his book, Race and the Making of the Mormon People.
Thanks to the JI crew, especially to Jessica Nelson, Ryan T, and J Stuart for their thoughtful comments on my book, Race and the Making of the Mormon People. It?s a great honor and an immense pleasure to interact with readers who have read one?s work so deeply and carefully.
Each of the roundtable?s comments/critiques focuses on one or both of two of the major interventions of my book: the first is to theorize ?whiteness? and ?race? more broadly; the second is to theorize the ?archive.? And my response?or, better put, self-critique?is to remind us (me!) not to think too literally about race or the archive. That is, the book tries (intentionally) to have it both ways: that race and the archive are ?real??as in literal, tangible things and/or experiences?as well as ?metaphors??as in literary signifiers of signified (imagined/constructed) things.
By November 27, 2017
On the surface, Max Perry Mueller?s book is, like several other recent works, a study of the shifting racialist ideas in nineteenth century Mormonism. Like those books, Mueller argues that early Mormonism is a particularly useful illustration of the fluidity of race, particularly in the early decades of the United States. When, as Mueller argues, white Americans began in the nineteenth century to understand ?race as (secular) biology,? (12) they began arguing that those characteristics they used to classify and label ?races? were organic, functions of one?s biological makeup, and though these characteristics extended from the merely physical (like skin color) to issues of intellect and temperament, most people determined them to be inborn and hence immutable.
The Mormons, Mueller argues, were different, in two ways.
By September 14, 2010
We’re pleased to announce that Max Mueller has agreed to join the permanent cast of the Juvenile Instructor. His name shall soon materialize on the sidebar. Again, with new and improved plaudits and laud, his bio:
Max Perry Mueller is a PhD candidate in American religious history at Harvard University, focusing on nineteenth century Mormonism and African American religious history. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School (M.T.S.) and Carleton College. His current research project involves early black Mormon pioneers to Salt Lake. He is excited to find interlocutors on all things Mormon, especially issues of race in the Restored Church (to which, quoting Booker T. Washington following his own 1913 visit to Utah, he has ?not yet converted?).
By February 28, 2010
We’re pleased to welcome a distinguished and honorable new guest blogger to the fold. Put your hands together for Max.
Max Perry Mueller is a PhD candidate in American religious history at Harvard University, focusing on nineteenth century Mormonism and African American religious history. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School (M.T.S.) and Carleton College. His current research project involves early black Mormon pioneers to Salt Lake. He is excited to find interlocutors on all things Mormon, especially issues of race in the Restored Church (to which, quoting Booker T. Washington following his own 1913 visit to Utah, he has “not yet converted”).
By July 5, 2019
The Joseph Smith Papers Documents, Documents 5: October 1835-January 1838 provides an in-depth series of sources relating to building of the Kirtland Temple, economic collapse related to the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society, the expulsion of Mormons Missouri, and religious dissent. In this post, I’d like to highlight how a teacher might use documents from this volume in a broader American History class.
By September 27, 2018
The latest issue of the Journal of Mormon History arrived in my mailbox this week and, I am pleased to say, is a very strong issue. Below is a brief summary of the articles and a list of book reviews. You can submit your article manuscript to the Journal of Mormon History HERE.
By March 26, 2018
This is the first of three posts on Max Perry Mueller’s Race and the Making of the Mormon People. Today’s post comes from Jessica Nelson, who recently completed an MS in history at Utah State University. She is interested in race and Mormonism in the twentieth century and loves riding her stationary bike.
Max Perry Mueller?s book Race and the Making of the Mormon People actively and deliberately engages with the Book of Mormon. This is significant, and I hope that other scholars will follow suit and take the words of the Book of Mormon?along with its 19th century context and what it represents to Mormonism?seriously in their work. Mueller rightly demonstrates that the Book of Mormon?s stories of racial lineages are critically important to understanding racial constructs in early Mormonism.
Readers familiar with the Book of Mormon will be able to recognize that Mueller carefully read Mormonism?s foundational text. After finishing Mueller?s conclusion, however, I am left wondering how useful textual analysis and literary criticisms of the Book of Mormon are to fully understand race in nineteenth-century Mormonism. How central are Mormon scriptures to Mormon conceptions of racial otherness and whiteness? Can the Nephites as ?white? people within the Book of Mormon be problematized any more than the simplistic way that Mueller references them? Did nineteenth-century white Mormons even think of the Nephites as ?white? like they were? The Book of Mormon is inherently problematic as primary source material, but evaluating Mueller?s claims begs further examination of scripture and the characters in it.
By February 28, 2018
In my current project, I am thinking about how a text becomes scripture–how people develop a relationship with a text. On this last day of Black History Month, I’m thinking about three items that reflect relationships to scripture that affect the life of Jane Manning James: a blessing, scripture, and an interview.
By May 9, 2017
Last year, we shared what we planned/hoped to read over the summer. Here are our lists for this summer–be sure to add your own reading lists in the comments!
This summer I’ll be studying for my comprehensive exams full time. Rather than list the 300 books still on my list, here are three books from each of my three major fields.
- The Basics: Despite recently starting my PhD in American history, I feel like I still have a lot left to learn of just the basics of the field. In order to do some catching up, I have a few basic American history textbooks, including Give Me Liberty! An American History by Eric Foner. Much of my year thus far has been about thinking about entangled histories and the nuance in historical movements. While I mostly support the movement to complicate ideas about the past, I also have been craving learning some of the foundations. One of my goals this semester is to play with new formats to process and think about historical information and therefore, I want to create a large scale timeline, using some of the basic info that I find in Foner’s book, that will enable me to better visualize American history.
- Theory: A recent research project has got me thinking a lot about governmentality and surveillance as a means of knowing and controlling populations. Additionally, I have continually seen Foucault’s ideas (as well as Marx) in my readings throughout this semester as authors reference ideas that are indebted to Foucault without actually explaining them. I want to read The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception in order understand the ways that Foucault talks about the epistemic change in medicine. Secondly, I want to read The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction where Foucault discusses investigates the genealogy of how sexuality has been constructed over time. In both these books, I am looking forward to learning more about the ways Foucault grounds the body in discussions about power, sexuality, and governance.
- Journals: Another goal I have for the summer is to read more Mormon journals. In the fall, I started reading A widow’s tale: the 1884-1896 diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. Helen’s journal especially has frequent vivid and intimate entries that made me deeply embedded in her life and I look forward to reading more. Additionally, I recently got the Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies by Davis Bitton from the library and look forward to using his descriptions of Mormon diaries as a jumping off place for where to look next in my readings.
- Theme: “Race, Gender, and Sex, oh my!” As I finished revisions on my book manuscript, I was ashamed with how little I engaged with this broad and significant field. It’s time to remedy that ill. I’m really excited to dig into Tera W. Hunter’s Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (Harvard UP), Daina Ramey Berry’s The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Beacon Press), and Marisa Fuentes’s Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archives (UPenn Press).
- Theme: “The Basics of the Revolutionary Age.” I’m teaching a graduate course on the American Revolution for the first time this summer, so I’m digging into a number of the newest books to track current trends. Randomly, three of them are from the same publisher. These include Mike Rapport’s, The Unruly City: Paris, London, and New York in the Age of Revolution (Basic Books), Carol Berkin’s A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism (Basic Books), John Boles’s Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty (Basic Books), and Holger Hoock’s Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth (Crown), and Eric Hinderaker’s Boston’s Massacre (Harvard UP).
- Theme: “Jackson’s America.” Since my Nauvoo project is rooted in antebellum America, I’m excited to see some other histories that similarly aim to uproot traditional narratives of the period. These include J. M. Opal’s Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation (Oxford University Press) and Christina Snyder’s Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in the Age of Jackson (Oxford University Press).
- And two books that don’t fit a broader theme but I’m also excited to read are Douglas L. Winiarski’s Darkness Falls Upon the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (UNC/Omohundro) and David Garrow’s The Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (William Marrow). Winiarski’s articles that led to this book were so excellent that I’ve been counting down the days for its release. And though I’ve been worried by early reviews of Garrow’s book in which his narrative of 44 seems overly dramatic, it will still be a nice form of escapism to imaging we aren’t living under the rule of 45.
- Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. I’m admittedly skeptical of anything but that claims to be “the definitive history” of anything, but Kendi’s book, winner of the National Book Award, comes pretty close to living up to its subtitle’s billing. I’ve been slowly making my way through whenever I have a minute here or there. This is beautifully-written and incredibly important.
- Max Perry Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People. I’m indexing the book, so I’ve already read through it once, but it’s been a pleasure to see Max’s detailed research over the last several years comes to fruition. Standing alongside several other recent books exploring the subject of Mormonism’s complicated history of race, Max’s stands out for its focus on the experience of Mormons of color and its close and provocative reading of the Book of Mormon.
- Adam Jortner, Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic. I’ll have a review up at some point at JI, so I’ll keep my comments brief. Jortner manages to offer a fresh perspective on a well-covered subject: Mormonism, anti-Mormonism, and miracles.
- James T. Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa; Richard S. Newman, Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers; Julia Gaffield, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution. I am busily at work writing a new chapter for my book manuscript that examines the parallel rise and earliest connections between black Methodist churches in the United States, Canada, and West Africa, and revisiting some early works that touch on those topics or speak to the broader context in which they occurred. I’m starting with these three.
- William Harris, The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Transitioning from my research to my teaching, I’m considering adopting this one for the US survey in the fall, but want to give it a closer read to make sure that it meets all of my qualifications.
- One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse. American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon by Stephen Prothero. As I move deeper into American religious life, both personally and professionally, my reading list amasses more titles that try to elucidate what it is, exactly, that makes American Christianity well, so American.
- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir by Michael Hicks. I have listened to countless hours of MoTab music on Pandora in the process of writing my dissertation. As the inauguration controversy in January showed, the choir is still a powerful symbol of Mormonism in America, so it’s high time I read this book.
- The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History by Robert Tracy McKenzie. It popped up recently on the Religion in American History blog, and it reminded me I own it, but haven’t yet read it. I’m interested in McKenzie’s historiographical and confessional approach, and figured you can never start amassing talking points for Thanksgiving dinner early enough, right?