We are continuing our focus on Black History Month here at Gospel Tangents. I’d like to introduce Dr. Newell Bringhurst. He has been publishing on a variety of Mormon history topics since the 1970s. We’ll get to know him a little better, and talk about his first book, Saints, Slaves & Blacks.
Newell: Well I started my academic career at the University of Utah. I did both a bachelors and masters in History at the University of Utah in the mid-‘60s. Then I went to California and did graduate work for a Ph.D. at the University of California-Davis. I completed my doctoral dissertation which became the basis for my first book, Saints, Slaves, and Blacks. I completed the dissertation in 1975, and then I revised it and updated because it was published three years before the black revelation of 1978. That, of course, required some major revision, particularly in the later chapters, and so I spent the next five years revising and updating the dissertation, and it was published in 1981 under the title of Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism.
GT: Yeah, it’s a great book. I think I even paid $20 for it. We were talking yesterday and I think you said it was $30 brand new, and I bought it 20 or 30 years later and it was still $20 so it has held its value well!
Newell chuckles: Well I’ve seen editions of it for as much as $75-$100 for ones that are in mint condition. I think Curt Bench had one he had gotten from a private collection. It had been autographed by me, it was an autographed copy and it looked like it was in mint condition and he was asking $75 for it!
GT: Yeah, yeah, it’s a great book. I understand you’re working on a 2nd edition with Greg Kofford Books.
Newell: Yes it is going to be published as an updated, expanded version. I’m going to virtually leave the text as I wrote it originally because #1, I feel like it has stood up pretty well with the test of time as far as my basic thesis and the way that my over-arching interpretation, but I’m going to add an introduction for the 2nd edition which will kind of be a historiographical discussion of where I fit into the scholarship as it evolved from those who preceded me in writing on the black issue and those who have written on the same issue since 1981. Because there has been a whole body of literature and historical inquiry has moved in that direction beyond what I did in Saints, Slaves, and Blacks.
I understand this second edition will be published in the next month or two! We will talk about some of his other books that have been influential in Mormon studies. Check out our conversation…..
Don’t forget our other interviews on Black Mormon History:
- Russell Stevenson on Elijah Ables
- Dr. Darron Smith on Race, Religion, and Sport
- Dr. Paul Reeve on How Mormons Became a Racial Category