Updated: Jun 30, 2021
For those of you who might not know me IRL, I’m an average white mormon girl, born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah.
I’ve got pioneer ancestors on all sides of my family and legitimately love my pioneer heritage - so much that I went to “pioneer camp” at This is the Place Heritage Park multiple times as a kid, actually looked forward to going on youth pioneer treks, and even celebrated my 8th birthday with pioneer games and an old-fashioned taffy pull at Brigham Young’s Lion House.
According to my husband, all these things make me a total pioneer nerd, because the most pioneer-ish thing he ever did in his Pacific NW youth was to survive the trek to Chimney Rock while playing 32-bit Oregon Trail.
Now. Having a better understanding of my pioneer background, can you imagine the total shock I felt learning about black pioneers for the first time at 30 years old??
Metaphorically, I was today years old when I learned not only that black pioneers real are, but that they made remarkable contributions to the church in its early days. If this is the first time you’re learning about black pioneers and early saints too, you’re not alone!
I think it's important to try and learn from black voices as much as possible - I have learned so much from following @sistasinzion, @maulib, and @firstnamebasis on Instagram and I highly recommend following them.
I've also gathered seven sources I found to be really valuable and put them in a blog post so you can learn too. Here is the list to kick-start your search!
UofU Century of Black Mormon Database | This database was created to document and identify all black saints baptized within the first 100 years of the church. Currently, over 100 black saints’ stories have been published and at least 200 more are under revision. This project is led by W. Paul Reeve, the Simmons Chair of Mormon Studies in the History Department at the University of Utah where he teaches courses on Utah history, Mormon history, and the history of the U.S. West.
Black Mormon Pioneers Church Website | A great stepping off point to learning about black saints considered notable by the church beginning in Joseph Smith’s lifetime through the 21st century.
Significant Documents from Black Latter-Day Saint History | Get visual with real photographs, scans of letters and documents, and tons of links to additional learning sources.
BlackPast.org Special Feature “African Americans and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” | BlackPast.Org was created with the intention of gathering as much African American history as possible in one easily searchable place. Essentially, their aim is to serve as the “Google” of African American History. They have a whole section about black mormons and I really appreciated reading their write-up because it’s from a more scholarly/historical perspective vs. a spiritual one.
LDS Church Essay on Race and the Priesthood | A great starting place for understanding the history and current beliefs regarding race within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Black LDS Legacy Conference 2021 - Replay | This is a link to the 4th annual Black LDS Legacy Conference. Led by seven black women, this conference and organization is dedicated to sharing the legacy of Black members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints. I was able to attend live in February 2021, but I think the testimonies and first-person narratives of these black saints are extremely valuable for members of all races to listen to. I highly recommend watching the replay and want to mention that future conferences are not for black saints only.
“All In” Podacst ep. 131 // Mauli Bonner and Paul Reeves: Understanding the history of Blacks in the Church | I listened to this podcast four times because I found it so valuable. Mauli Bonner is the director and producer of the Green Flake movie, the story of the first black pioneers. Paul Reeves is the engine behind the Century of Black Mormons database. Together their perspectives and insights to understanding the history of Blacks in the LDS church is incredibly refreshing.
For too long the legacy of black pioneers has been forgotten, and the credit and honor they deserve is way overdue. As a white latter-day saint it would be easy for me to tell myself that this part of our church history doesn’t really apply to me, but as Christ taught in D&C 38:27 “If ye are not one, ye are not mine”. We ALL belong to each other and their story is part of the LDS story. Learning the stories of black pioneers won’t change the past, but they can help us grow and move forward in unity. I’m incredibly grateful I was led to learn about the lives of these black pioneers while creating the Restoration Buddies magnetic figures. If you want to learn more about how I was inspired to share their stories in my creative work, check out this post! My testimony of the restoration and repentance has grown so much, and I hope these sources will help you as well.