New Monument at This is the Place Heritage Park honors Black pioneers

Jul 18, 2022, 12:13 PM | Updated: Jul 20, 2022, 11:57 am

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

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

For nearly a year now work has been underway on the impressive bronze sculptures. The memorial will showcase both free and enslaved early Black Latter-day Saint pioneers. The monument is called Pioneers of 1847.

According to Ellis Ivory, executive director at the park, the project began when film producers Mauli Bonner (“His 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 Black Latter-day Saint pioneers.

Bonner shared the story of Green Flake, a 19-year-old enslaved man who drove a wagon in the Mormon Vanguard Brigade of 1847. Flake was celebrated during his life, and he spoke multiple times at 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 more enslaved men who had joined the Church and were part of that first group.

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

Tamu Smith spoke of Jane Elizabeth Manning James, a woman who was 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 recorded Black woman 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 provide inspiration for those who see it.

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

According to Ivory, there were many people who were excited about the monument and 10 basic funders came forward to help with the costs. He said no state money was used for the project.

Sculptors Stefanie and Roger Hunt are the artists for this project. They are the same artists who created the Pioneer Children’s memorial at This is The Place Heritage Park.

The dedication for the new statuary is at 10 a.m. on Friday and will mark the 175th anniversary of when Green Flake, Oscar Smith and Hark Wells entered the valley. A Pioneer Day Concert—Celebrating our Collective History will be held later that night at the park as well.

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New Monument at This is the Place Heritage Park honors Black pioneers