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For week ended June 06, 1999 Posted 19 Jun 1999

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Her faith soared over prejudice

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Her faith soared over prejudice
Deseret News 6Jun99 C7
By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor

and additional article referenced at the end of this summary.

On Saturday, June 5, l999, more than 200 admirers of Jane Elizabeth Manning James, gathered together at the Salt Lake City Cemetery to celebrate the life of Utah's first free black Mormon pioneer woman. Elder David B. Haight, of the First Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, officiated at the ceremony that dedicated a plaque to James' honor.

Referring to the fact that six of his ancestors enetered the Salt Lake Valley with the same pioneer company as James, Elder Haight said, "I think I'm claiming here today with all of you some eternal relationship through family friendship with this wonderful woman...I'm sure Jane would have been helping my family along because that's the way she was constructed...We praise and honor her name."

A bronze sculptured plaque, by sculptor LeRoy Transfield, depicting James at the door of her pioneer neighbor, Eliza Lyman, shows her offering half of all of her food to a woman who had nothing to eat. Lyman's hands are raised in gratitude to her cheeks for the gift. The act was later recorded in Lyman's journal. The plaque is anchored on a granite block next to her small headstone. Darius Gray, spokesman for Genesis, a local group of African American Mormons and their friends who organized and supported the commission of the monument, said another plaque will give details about James' life and will be added opposite the monument.

James' gift was most extraordinary for many reasons, but most importantly because James was both poor and black in an overwhelming white society that had experienced much persecution. Elder Alexander Morrison, president of the Utah North Area of the Church said, "She lived in a time of great prejudice toward African Americans." "All of us know how hard life must have been for a single African American woman in the l9th Century....There still remains much more to be done before the dream of equal rights for all is fully realized. Perhaps her quiet example of persistence will help us all better understand that God hath made us all of one blood."

"When all women and men everywhere understand that all are alike unto God, then and only then will the abhorrent sin of racism be banished from the earth. I'm longing for that day and I'm sure Jane is longing for it as well," said Morrison. Henry Wolfinger, an archivist for the National Archives in Washington has studied James' life for 25 years. He was glad to see her finally honored for her contribution and to "ensure that the issue (of race) remains high on the LDS agenda."

Morrison summed it up best when he said, "It is easy to give when you have plenty." "But the real test of charity is a willingness to give when you have little and your own children cry for food." "Through all her sorrows, her faith in Christ and His atonement remained strong." Of her children, James said, "They now know Jesus and His love."

see also:

Early LDS African American Honored for Life of Self-Sacrifice Salt Lake Tribune 6Jun99 C7 By Bob Mims: Salt Lake Tribune

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