Two BYU history professors shared their research on slavery and the intersections with Brigham Young University.
Dr. Matthew Mason and Dr. Christopher Jones presented their findings to 85 people at the Provo City Library on Jan. 10.
“I want to better understand these histories that we’re talking about and then make those histories more accessible to the BYU community,” Jones said.
Jones says the catalyst for starting the project was learning his ancestor was a slave owner and that discovery has impacted the long term goals of the project.
“That’s my number one goal as a historian is to understand the past and the way that it shapes the world in which we live. I don’t have any particular, personal motive, there’s no wish list of to make institutional changes to BYU or anything like that for me,” Jones said.
The professors have been collaborating with other faculty members and students on the BYU Slavery Project since 2019.
Mason said he decided to join the project because of his interest and expertise in the scholarly aspect of studying slavery and history.
“I don’t have the same family connections to some of this history but I am a historian of slavery and I thought I might be able to help give some context on what’s happening with 19th century slavery in the United States more generally as well as Utah,” Mason said.
Grace Soelberg was one of the students helping with the research of the project, and she discussed the central message of the project being to make the information accessible to the community.
“I think for us it’s just to get this information out there because a lot of people simply don’t know and they can’t be taught what they don’t know so making this information as publicly available as possible,” she said.
Members of the BYU Slavery Project say they are answering the calls issued by prophets and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-da y Saints to “abandon prejudice, help root out racism and promote respect for all of God’s children.”
“Just to have the proper knowledge to make your own opinion, you know we’re not making opinions for you, but once you have the proper material you can look at the documents for yourself then you can come to your own informed opinion.”