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This is the Place Heritage Park to unveil monuments for early Black pioneers

Jul 1, 2022, 11:52 AM
The new monuments at This is the place heritage park....
A crew begins to install a new monument honoring early Black pioneers at This is the Place Heritage Park. The new monument will be unveiled and dedicated on July 22, 2022. Photo credit: Joseph Reidhead.

SALT LAKE CITY — Just in time for the upcoming Pioneer Day holiday, a new monument is being dedicated at This is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City.

How the This is the Place Heritage Park monuments came to be

The monument will include sculptures of early Black pioneers Green Flake, Jane Manning James and her two sons, Sylvester and Silas, as well as Hark Wales and Oscar Smith.

Mauli Junior Bonner, the monument’s main coordinator, said the monuments are a labor of love, four years in the making, and help complete the story of the founding of Utah.

“Green Flake, for me, is the cornerstone,” Bonner said. “He had to be recognized. People knew who he was and what he meant to the community. It’s good to have his memory back.”

The monument was funded by proceeds from the film “His Name is Green Flake” which tells the true story of Flake’s life. The film was also directed by Bonner.

The photo below was provided by the Lift Up Voices Foundation. In the photo, Kellen Perkins, a descendant of Green Flake and Jane Manning James, and Tamu Smith, a producer of the film, “His Name is Green Flake,” kneel next to a new statue of Green Flake by Stephanie and Roger Hunt.

Who are the pioneers recognized by the monument?

Green Flake was born into slavery in 1828 and lived on a plantation in Anson County, North Carolina. At the age of 16, Flake was baptized. Flake, a respected Latter-day Saint, drove the first wagon into Emigration Canyon.

He was laid to rest next to his wife Martha in the Union Pioneer Cemetery in Cottonwood Heights in 1903.

Also honored is Jane Manning James from Wilton, Connecticut. According to her biography, she, her sons, and other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints set out for Nauvoo in 1843. They were forced off a boat in Buffalo, New York because of their race.

After arriving in Nauvoo, Jane was invited to live with Joseph and Emma Smith. She eventually married Isaac James and had two sons before traveling west to Utah in 1847. Jane remained a faithful Latter-day Saint until her death in 1908.

Brothers Hark Wales and Oscar Smith were born into slavery on the John Crosby plantation in Mississippi. The enslaved brothers were selected to be part of the vanguard company and tasked with charting a course and improving the trail to Utah.

The statues, to be unveiled and dedicated on July 22 at 10 a.m., were sculpted by Stephanie and Roger Hunt. The statues are pictured in the photo below, provided by the Lift Up Voices Foundation.

Related: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks for ways to reduce water usage across it’s properties

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This is the Place Heritage Park to unveil monuments for early Black pioneers