Black Saints in a White Church
Contemporary African American Mormons
by Jessie L. Embry
This study is based on two data sets: the LDS Afro-American Oral History Project interviews and the LDS Afro-American Survey responses. In 1985 Alan Cherry, a black Latter-day Saint, suggested that the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University conduct oral history interviews with LDS Afro-Americans. The Redd Center agreed and hired Cherry as a consultant. He interviewed a total of 224 black Latter-day Saints.
The interviews were valuable, but they revealed the need for a sample with more focused questions. Therefore, the Redd Center sent a mail survey to black Latter-day Saints throughout the United States. Approximately 200 people returned the survey. This book is a “group biography” of those who participated in the oral history project and the survey.
The perception of the Mormon church has been changing since the 1950s. It is generally no longer considered a “cult.” But it has not completely broken out of its western American model, and blacks are not completely integrated. Consequently the story of African American Mormons is not without problems. Yet despite the dilemmas, most black Latter-day Saints look beyond the past to the role they can play in the church. The LDS African American experience is one of integration and discrimination, yet it promises hope for assimilation as black and white Mormons replace stereotypes with individual faces.