A new monument at This is the Place Heritage Park honors black pioneers

SALT LAKE CITY – A new monument honoring some of the first black pioneers who entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 will be unveiled Friday at This Is The Place Heritage Park.

The dedication will take place at 10 a.m. and President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will preside. The public is invited to attend.

For nearly a year, work has been underway on the impressive bronze sculptures. The memorial will feature both free and enslaved early black latter-day pioneers. The monument is called Pioneers of 1847.

According to Ellis Ivory, the park’s executive director, the project began when film producers Mauli Bonner (“Her Name Is Green Flake”) and Tamu Smith (“Jane and Emma”) approached him to discuss the possibility of building a monument featuring some of the little-known stories of Latter-day Saint black pioneers.

Bonner shared the story of Green Flake, a 19-year-old slave who drove a wagon in the vanguard Mormon Brigade of 1847. Flake was celebrated during his life and he spoke on several occasions during Pioneer Day celebrations. He joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while a slave.

Oscar Crosby and Hark Lay Wales were two other slaves who had joined the Church and were part of this first group.

July 22, 1847, Flake, Crosby and Wales were among the very first pioneers to enter the valley. They went with Orson Pratt and others to the Salt Lake Valley two days before Brigham Young to prepare the way for the rest of the company. This group had made its way, paving the way for the thousands of other pioneers who were to follow.

Tamu Smith spoke of Jane Elizabeth Manning James, a woman born into a free black family in Connecticut in 1822. Jane was one of the first black members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the first woman black registered to enter Utah. She arrived in September 1847.

Bonner and Smith say they hope the new monument will elevate the stories of these brave pioneers and inspire those who see it.

The new memorial is located near the entrance to This is The Place Heritage Park and will feature bronze replicas of each of these individuals with carved stone pillars telling their stories.

According to Ivory, many people were excited about the monument and 10 grassroots donors came forward to help defray the costs. He said no state money was used for the project.

Sculptors Stefanie and Roger Hunt are the artists of this project. These are the same artists who created the Pioneer Child Memorial at This is The Place Heritage Park.

The dedication of the new statuary will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday and will mark the 175th anniversary of Green Flake, Oscar Smith and Hark Wells’ entry into the Valley. A Pioneer Day Concert – Celebrating Our Collective History will also take place later that night at the park.

About Bobby F. Lopez

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