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Truth and Reconciliation: A Conference of the BYU Slavery Project

Friday, February 16
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
WSC Varsity Theater

Truth and Reconciliation: A Conference of the BYU Slavery Project

9 a.m. Welcome
Matthew Mason, Professor of History, BYU
Lita Little Giddins, Associate Vice President, BYU Office of Belonging
9:15–10:10 a.m. XP- Keynote Session

Chair: Matthew Mason

Speaker: Leslie Harris, Professor of History and African American Studies, Northwestern University
Histories of Slavery and Higher Education: Why Now?
For just over 20 years, many higher education institutions have been engaged in deep investigation of their histories of enslavement and racism. Although these projects began with the history of people of African descent, they have expanded to uncover histories of land dispossession of Native Americans, Jewish quotas, international students, and missionary work, among others. Some of that expansion and variation is represented by the BYU Slavery Project. Why are these histories being written now? And what do these histories tell us about the future of higher education institutions?

Students in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences gain Experience Points for attending this lecture. Learn more about Experience Points.

10:15–11:35 a.m.Session 1: Slavery, Servitude, and Race in Utah and the West

Chair: Brenden Rensink, Professor of History, BYU

Brian Cannon, Chair, BYU History Department
“To Buy Up the Lamanite Children as Fast as They Could”: American Indian Indentured Servitude and Its Legacy in Utah
In 1852, Utah’s territorial legislature legalized the purchase of indigenous captives, acknowledging that prominent Utes relied upon the trade and that the purchased captives make likely proselytes. Between 1852 and the early 1880s, Latter-day Saints took hundreds of Paiute, Goshute, Shoshone, Navajo, and Ute children into their homes. This presentation explores the impacts of this practice.

Amy Tanner Thiriot, Independent Historian, Family History Instructor, BYU-Idaho
The Experiences of the Enslaved Black Pioneers of Utah Territory
Curious about Utah Territory's enslaved Black pioneers? Besides Green Flake, there were more than 100 others — men, women, and children — who shared the experiences of the Latter-day Saint pioneers, but in bondage. Explore with us their origins, contributions, and the misrepresentation of their experiences by their enslavers' descendants. Join us for a closer look at this little-known group that left a lasting impact on the history and development of Utah Territory.

W. Paul Reeve, Simmons Chair of Mormon Studies, University of Utah
Truth, Reconciliation, and Brigham Young versus Orson Pratt
This talk will explore the debate between Brigham Young and Orson Pratt over slavery and servitude in 1850s Utah Territory and what that means for efforts at truth and reconciliation today.

11:35 a.m.–1 p.m.Lunch Break (Lunch provided for panelists, other guests, and select students)
1–2:30 p.m. Session 2: Race at BYU

Chair: Rebecca de Schweinitz, Professor of History, BYU

Carl Hernandez, BYU Vice President, Office of Belonging
A Gospel-centered Approach to Rooting out Racism and Creating A Community of Covenant Belonging
Prophetic guidance from prophet, seers, and revelators on how we can lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice, and how we can create a community of covenant belonging.

Aisha Lehmann, Sociology Graduate Student, University of Illinois Chicago; BYUSP Alumna
Race in Brigham Young Academy Curriculum: Late 19th Century White American Superiority on a Latter-day Saint Campus
Like other American institutions of higher education at the time, Brigham Young Academy (est. 1875) taught and helped to perpetuate prejudicial ideas about racial hierarchies. As a distinct religious institution, the white supremacist ideas promoted at BYA reflected and sustained mainstream currents of racist thought but also encompassed and extended particular religious ideas related to race. Lehmann’s research for the BYU Slavery Project identifies those ideas and suggests that the intellectual, cultural, “scientific,” and religious aspects of racial thought promoted in the early years of BYA had important ramifications for students at the time, as well as future generations of students and the broader Latter-day Saint community.

Grace Soelberg, History Graduate Student, University of Utah; BYUSP Alumna
Soelberg will present her research on BYU’s first black student, Norman Wilson.

Farina King, Citizen of the Navajo Nation; Horizon Chair of Native American Ecology and Culture; Associate Professor of Native American Studies, University of Oklahoma; BYUSP Advisory Board Member
Red Power at BYU — Intersections and Contentions of Race and Land
King highlights the American Indian programs at BYU, and how the university once offered the strongest networks and programs for Native American college students during the civil rights movements of the 1970s. BYU even boasted the most Native American college students in the United States during the height of the American Indian Movement and Red Power at that time. King considers the broader contexts and intergenerational impacts of slaveries, colonization, land dispossession, and racism that has affected Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations, including BYU students and their communities.

Anthony Bates, Managing Director, BYU Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership; BYUSP Advisory Board Member
Dignity and Community: Important First Steps Toward Belonging
Having a sense of belonging is an innate desire within all of us, but what if certain populations are made to feel like they don’t belong? Bates will share his research showing that students from underrepresented racial backgrounds at BYU often have very different lived experiences as students at BYU, which can hinder a sense of belonging. His presentation will also discuss ways that institutions like BYU can foster dignity and community in their attempts to help students feel like they belong.

2:45–4 p.m. Session 3: Pursuing Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing

Chair: Christopher Jones, Professor of History, BYU

Leslie Harris, Professor of History and African American Studies, Northwestern University
Understanding African American History through My Family History: An Academic Historian's Journey
Harris is currently writing a book on New Orleans that uses Hurricane Katrina and her family’s history as a way to interrogate the history of African Americans in the city from the nineteenth century to the present. This presentation will offer her personal and professional reflections on that experience.

Alice Faulkner Burch, Board Director at Sema Hadithi Foundation; Independent Historian of the Black American Experience in Utah; Editor of My Lord He Calls Me: Stories of Faith By Black Latter-day Saints (Deseret Book, 2022)

Louise Wheeler, Licensed Clinical Psychologist; BYUSP Advisory Board Member

Contact Information
Matthew Mason