John Burton (1797–1865) was born to slave parents, and eventually joined the Mormon Church. Burton’s Mormonism transcended race, bondage, culture, and geography as he journeyed west with several owners from Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, and frontier Utah. He was one of the three African Americans in Brigham Young’s 1847 company to Utah and remained in Great Salt Lake City afterward. Burton’s life and times challenge traditional Mormon conceptions of religious community, racism, and paternalism.
Melvin C. Johnson