In the spring of 1844, a Black man only identified in legal records as “Chism” was suspected of a crime, seized and whipped by a mob of drunken men in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Following the assault, the man sought safety in the office of Joseph Smith, who then served as the city’s mayor and justice of the peace.

At a time when wrongs against Black individuals were not prosecuted, Joseph did his best in his legal capacity as justice of the peace to bring the perpetrators to justice, said Jeffrey Mahas, a historian with the Joseph Smith Papers.

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