7 stories to read in honor of Black History Month

On July 22, 2022—the 175th anniversary of the day Green Flake drove the first wagon into Emigration Canyon—a memorial honoring black pioneers was unveiled at This Is the Place Heritage Park.

Three bronze statues – one of Jane Manning James and her sons Silas and Sylvester, one by Flake and the third by brothers Wales and Smith – and accompanying stone pillars inscribed with highlights of their personal history make up the newest historic monument to bear the simple name Pioneers of 1847.

President M. Russell Ballard, acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a direct descendant and supporter of the early pioneers, dedicated the monument in front of several hundred people.

“When you stand in the stands and look at the multiracial and multicultural audience, it says, ‘This is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’—international and multicultural,” President Ballard said after the diverse gathering of attendees. “It was just wonderful to be a part of that and to be able to honor the early pioneers, especially the early black pioneers.”

In honor of Black History Month, Church News has compiled a list of stories honoring black members of the Church. Below are six more stories.

Who is Green Flake?


On Episode 34 of the Church News podcast, Mauli Junior Bonner speaks about the importance of the Church’s early black pioneers.

Mauli Junior Bonner stood backstage after performing with his family during the church’s “Be One” celebration on June 1, 2018. The 90-minute event at the conference center used song, dance and the spoken word to mark the 40th anniversary of the Church’s 1978 revelation of extending the blessings of the priesthood and the temple to all of God’s children. The name of the event—“Be One”—referenced the Savior’s teaching: “Be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

That moment became one of “the greatest experiences of his life” as he felt oneness with Church leaders and members. As an African-American Latter-day Saint, he wanted to learn more about his own history and the early history of the Church—including the experiences of the early members of the Church who were enslaved African-Americans.

He began studying the life of Green Flake—who was born into slavery in the mid-1820s and became the first Latter-day Saint pioneer to reach the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

Theatrical vignette about Jane Manning James


Jerri A. Harwell presents a one-woman theatrical vignette about Jane Manning James at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on February 23, 2017.

R. Scott Lloyd, News of the Church

Jane Manning James accepted the gospel as a free black woman living in Connecticut in 1841, having been born in Wilton in the early 1820s. She and her family walked more than 800 miles to join the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. She lived with and worked for Joseph and Emma Smith at the Mansion House. In 1847 she participated in the exodus of Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo, and her family was the first African-American family to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley.

This 2017 article features excerpts from a one-woman theatrical vignette about her life at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.

Pioneers in all countries: Rudá Tourinho de Assis Martins


Sister Rudá Tourinho de Assis Martins smiles as she attends a meeting of the Brazilian Fortaleza Mission in Holladay on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Martins was the wife of the mission president in Brazil.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

On a fast Sunday in 2021 in Watford City Ward, North Dakota, a woman of African descent in her late 80s made her way onto the podium, aided by her daughter. In Portuguese and English, and with her daughter as translator, she began sharing her testimony.

Shari Buck recalled feeling the power of the Spirit fill the chapel. Listening to her testimony was a “soul touching experience,” she said. The experience made her wonder, “Who is this woman?”

Sister Rudá Tourinho de Assis Martins, wife of the late Elder Helvécio Martins—the first black General Authority in the Church—had just moved to the prairies and oil fields of North Dakota to live with her daughter, Marisa Helena Knudson. With her she brought a lifetime of faithful service and an unwavering testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Black Latter-day Saint’s Reflections on Black History in the Church


Clareena and Hugo Lindsay and their children. Born in Britain, Clareena is a black Latter-day Saint who moved to Canada with her family as a teenager.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Clareena Lindsay, a member of the Montreal, Quebec Church, recently reflected on a presentation at a Black History Month event held in February 2020 at the Montreal, Quebec Mount Royal Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s great to focus on black history in February,” Lindsay told the Church’s Canadian Newsroom, “but black history should be learned any time of year.”

As she learned about pioneers in Church meetings, she felt she did not fully understand the stories of the mostly white pioneers and early Saints. “By researching black pioneers, it has helped me to make more connections,” she said. “What motivated me to research this topic was the desire to explain the circumstances of the time and share all the information in an uplifting way. I wanted my presentation to be balanced and informative.”

Family History: Reclaim your African roots


Learn more about your African roots with FamilySearch’s Black History Month resources.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Black History Month has been observed in the United States every February since 1976. The annual celebration honors the achievements of African Americans and their pivotal role in US history.

It’s also a time to learn about and celebrate African American heritage.

FamilySearch provides a handout titled “10 Steps to Reclaiming Your African Roots: A Guide to Navigating African American Genealogy” as a starting point.

The Church’s Be One celebration


Choir members sing during a rehearsal for the Church’s worldwide event, “Be One,” held Friday, June 1, 2018 at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Sound a trumpet” and “Praise the Lord”: two simple three-word phrases that aptly capture the spirit that brought the conference center to life on Friday, June 1, 2018.

In the closing moments of the historic “Be One” event, President Russell M. Nelson’s eyes sparkled as he stood on the Conference Center stage and greeted the many performers. Perhaps he also envisioned people around the world clasping hands, both literally and metaphorically, to commemorate a modern-day priesthood revelation that still blesses legions.

“Across every continent and across the islands of the sea faithful men are being gathered into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said at the conclusion of “Be One”—the First Presidency-sponsored celebration of the 40th anniversary of the revelation of 1978 on the priesthood.

“Differences of culture, language, gender, race, and nationality,” he said, “fade into insignificance as believers step onto the covenant path and come unto our beloved Redeemer.”

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