Russell Stevenson

Russell Stevenson

Geographic Area:  Nigeria 
Dissertation Advisor: Prof. Nwando Achebe
Committee Members: Walter Hawthorne, Pero G. Dagbovie, and Peter M. Beattie 

Field of Research:

I study the construction of indigenous knowledge in post-independence Nigeria, paying particular attention to how Nigerian higher educational systems institutionalized and reshaped existing ways of conceptualizing local landscapes. Thus, I am an historian of ideas but also, I tether ideas to social and economic institutions; indigenous knowledge cannot be unmoored from land practices, great power politics, and local identities—thus making higher educational efforts the product of “glocal” identities and exchange. 

As an historian of race, religion, and gender in Africa, I have centered my work primarily on the growth of Mormonism in Africa, a story of Africans adapting and “translating” (a la Lamin O. Sanneh) Mormonism as a cultural text.  I have published on a variety of aspects of race and Mormonism, ranging from my first book–a biography of Elijah Ables, the first black priesthood holder in the Mormon tradition to the role of “prophetesses” in forming the Mormon church in 1960s Ghana.  In December, I will release my second book, For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013.  This book, for the first time, provides a chronologically complete and internationally-minded history of Mormonism’s interactions with the global black community in the Americas and Africa.  In the book’s second half, I provide an anthology of annotated primary sources to accompany the narrative text.

Advanced Praise for For the Cause of Righteousness
“The story of Mormons and blacks shares much with the history of race in America. The Mormon tale is further laden with entanglements peculiar to itself––often fraught, sometimes inspiring. For the Cause of Righteousness breaks new ground with its mix of international scope, comprehensive chronology, and theoretical vision. It recognizes that notions of race are not merely dictated from the pinnacles of hierarchy, and it offers a complement of narrative analysis and illuminating primary documents. This is a notable study.” — Philip Barlow, Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon Studies, Utah State University

“Russell Stevenson has produced a terrific compilation. Invaluable as a historical resource, and as a troubling morality tale. The array of documents compellingly reveals the tragedy and inconsistency of racial attitudes, policies, and doctrines in the LDS tradition, and the need for eternal vigilance in negotiating a faith that must never be unmoored from humaneness.” — Terryl L. Givens, James A. Bostwick Professor of English, University of Richmond. 


For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013  (2014)
Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables (2013)

-“‘A Negro Preacher’: The Worlds of Elijah Ables,” Journal of Mormon History 39, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 165-254.
-“Manly Virtue: Defining Male Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism,” Dialogue:  A Journal of Mormon Thought  47, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 48-82.
-“Sonya’s Awakening: White Mormon Expatriates in Africa and the Dismantling of Mormonism’s Racial Consensus, 1852–1978,” forthcoming.

Awards Received
1. Fulbright-Hays DDRA Recipient (2019-2020)
2. Charles A. Gliozzo Scholarship (2018)
3. West Africa Research Association Dissertation Research Fellowship (2018)
4. Martin Luther King Endowed Scholarship for Community Service (2015)
5. Mormon History Association Best Book Award (2015)

With Doug Fabrizio, RadioWest:
Black Mormon (August 21, 2013)
Revisiting Blacks and the Priesthood  (December 11, 2013)

With John Dehlin, Mormon Stories
Elijah Abel (September 12, 2013)