The Black Mormon Homepage (13)

Early Black Mormons

Black Mormons were among the first to travel to Utah with Brigham Young and the early Mormon pioneers. The man that actually led the Mormons into Salt Lake Valley (at that time a hostile desert) was Green Flake; a slave of a Southerner who converted to the Church. Brigham Young had Flake freed in 1854. Flake died a faithful Mormon. Fort Union, Utah, was originally a Black Mormon community 20 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Green Flake

Samuel D. Chambers (1831-1929) was a Black Mormon from Mississippi who converted to the Church in 1844, and in 1870 he moved to Salt Lake City. He was one of the largest land-owners and wealthiest men in Salt Lake Valley.

Samuel D. Chambers and his wife Amanda (c. 1910)

Dan Bankhead Freeman was another early African-American Mormon who worked as a blacksmith in Corinne, Utah:

Dan Bankhead Freeman

Jane Manning James was one of the most faithful Mormons in Utah. President Joseph F. Smith spoke at her funeral:

Jane and Isaac James

Jane can be seen in the very center of the photo of Mormons at General Conference about the year 1897. Can you find the other black Mormon in this photo?

Mary Ann Perkins was a black Mormon pioneer who settled in Bountiful, Utah:

Mary Ann Perkins (c. 1910)

John Brown accompanied Brigham Young on his entrance to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. He was among the first Mormons to enter what is now the state of Utah. In 1848 he travelled back to his home state of Mississippi in order to lead the Mississippi Mormons (both black and white) to the Salt Lake Valley. In the spring of 1848 57 white and 37 black Mormons left Mississippi in 11 wagons. John Brown later said:

"Every man, woman and child, both white and black, gazed at us with astonishment as we passed their habitations." [i.e. both black and whites in Mississippi couldn't believe that a black man was leading 11 wagons of almost 100 souls~both black and whites together] (from Black Latter-day Saints Pioneers online)

John Brown: Leader of the Mississippi Mormon immigration to Utah

There were only a few hundred Black Mormons in Utah at any given time before the 1960s. Here is a portait of three members of one early Black Mormon family:

Lucinda Flake (sitting) with her two granddaughters (Fort Union, Utah, c.1880s)

The First African-American Police Detective

The very FIRST African-American police detective in the United States was Paul Cephas Howell, a black Mormon who moved from the South to Salt Lake City in 1886. Mormon Church President Wilford Woodruff arranged for his employment as a police officer with the Salt Lake City Police Department; a department overwhelmingly Mormon. Officer Howell became a Detective with that department; the first African-American police detective.

Officer Paul Cephas Howell, Salt Lake City P.D., 1886

An Elder's Quorum meeting in the Atlanta Branch (2003)


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