Joseph Stuart

Postdoctoral Fellow
Neal A. Maxwell Institute
Brigham Young University

Joseph Stuart, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at Brigham young University, received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Utah, where he studied the relationship of race, masculinity, and religion in twentieth-century African American freedom movements. He is a scholar of African American history, particularly of the relationship between race, freedom rights, and religion in the twentieth century Black Freedom Movement. His scholarship and pedagogy are built around establishing similarities, differences, and contingencies that reveal how groups fought for liberation in myriad ways. He assumes that there is no single movement or approach to Black freedom that can adequately the aims and desires of all Black communities—and that we do historical actors a disservice by flattening their decisions into binary categories. The same can and must be recognized when broadly describing the historical construction of race, gender, or politics.

Stuart's work illuminates how working-class Black people had different stakes and priorities for gaining their freedom rights. He elucidates the dependence of categories like race, gender, politics, and religion upon one another—each category comprising and thereby supporting one another. The Nation of Islam rooted its identities in religious definitions of Black manhood—making and remaking arguments about Black people's place in American society in the process. He contends that because their very sense of masculinity, religion, and race were all inseparably connected, the NOI believed that integration would cause their entire religious logic to crumble. The NOI shows that Black people defined race for their communities and purposes and set debates on their own terms, rather than on white arguments that defined them as inferior.

Stuart's dissertation, “'Freedom, Justice, and Equality for Black Men in America': Race, Masculinity, and the Nation of Islam in the Black Freedom Movement, 1931-1975," examines the Nation of Islam’s racial and masculine ideologies to understand how and why some Black American groups opposed integration in the mid-twentieth century United States. The project traces the Nation of Islam’s founding from its origins in Great Depression Detroit to its schism following the death of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1975 and its “restoration” under Louis Farrakhan in 1981. His study complicates historians’ ideas about the Black Freedom Movement, highlighting how race, masculinity, and religion led to a Black Nationalist group’s refusal to participate in national freedom rights movements and actions. Stuart is also an affiliate researcher with the Century of Black Mormons Project, which uses the tools of digital and analog histories to discover, research, and publish on the lives of Mormons of Black African descent from 1830-1930.