Race on the Page, Race on the Body
This chapter introduces the book’s main argument: that the three original American races, “black,” “red,” and, “white,” were constructed first in the written archive before they were read onto human bodies. It argues that because of America’s uniquely religious history, the racial construction sites of Americans of Native, African, and European descent were religious archives. The Mormon people’s relationship with race serves as a case unto itself and a case study of the larger relationship between religious writings and race. During the nineteenth century early Mormons taught a theology of “white universalism,” which held that even non-whites, whom the Bible and the Book of Mormon taught were cursed with dark skin because of their ancestors’ sin against their families, could become “white” through dedication to the restored Mormon gospel. But Mormons eventually abandoned this “white universalism,” and instead taught and practiced a theology of white supremacy.
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