Black History in Southern Utah? Just a bit

Depiction of Green Flake, African-American slave who came to Salt Lake City with Brigham Young's party in 1847, from monument at This is the Place Heritage Park, Salt Lake City | Graphic composite, St. George News

Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 96.7 FM. The opinions stated in this article are hers and not those of St. George News.

OPINION – February happens to be Black History Month and, while widely acknowledged throughout our nation, I realized that those of us living in Southern Utah don’t pay it much tribute or even talk about it much. So, I went on a little quest to find out about the history of African-Americans in our own corner of the world.

Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent statistics, just over 1 percent of Utah’s population of 2.8 million is African-American. While the numbers of African-Americans seem relatively low within our State, we actually do have some history that dates back to the middle of the 19th century.

Census records from the 1850’s show fewer than 100 African-Americans actually lived within the entire state. I think even those numbers were hard to come by given the fact that they did not do a great job of recording black residents during that time.

The southern pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who traveled with Brigham Young, brought three slaves with them on the 1847 journey: Green Flake, Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby. The three slaves’ names are among the other pioneer settlers listed on the monument at “This is the Place Heritage Park” in Salt Lake City. While we have these names recorded into the history of Utah, less is known about specific African-American settlers in Southern Utah. For instance, they have a record of a slave living up on the Dixie Hill. Yes, that’s pretty much the extent of it.

St. George historian Bart Anderson said many of the first black pioneers that came to live in St. George came as slaves of LDS converts from the South. At that time in history, Utah had both free blacks and slaves, so when the settlers arrived, they were allowed to keep the slaves that had traveled with them.

Anderson said that of the few accounts of blacks that helped settle Utah’s Dixie, most records simply document something like “a black man painted this” instead of giving the names of the individuals. To some today, the idea of being recorded only as a “black man” may seem surprising.  But we have come a long way since then.

Hazel B. Bradshaw wrote about a young black girl who accompanied the Cunningham family who came from the South to settle in Utah’s Dixie. She returned home quickly though, on her own, when she realized that there was no one of her race to associate with in the area. Bradshaw didn’t note whether this young girl was a slave but wrote that she came with the family because of her attachment to them. I can’t say that I would not have done the same thing – who wants to be the only minority in the area?

The mining boom in Silver Reef brought a few more African-Americans to the area towards the turn of the 19th century but because of the geographical isolation of the Dixie Valley, few settled here.

In Iron County, there is a record of a man called Faithful John, whom Bart Anderson says was instrumental in building the old rock chapel in Parowan. He traveled with a group of settlers clear back in 1851.

By 1910, there were more than 1,000 blacks living in the state of Utah. As the military presence began to increase at Hill Air Force Base in the 1940s, we increased to just over 4,000 blacks by the time the 1960’s arrived. If you think about that small number spread out amongst the entire state, it’s not hard to imagine how isolated they must have felt.

Dr. Ronald G Coleman, associate vice president for diversity and faculty at the University of Utah, came to Utah to attend college on a scholarship. Of his first impression of Utah, Coleman said:

“I came to Salt Lake City with some apprehension. I didn’t know anything about the Mormon church in any detail … but … knew that African-Americans didn’t seem to fit in with church acceptance.”

Nonetheless, Coleman said, “I had a wonderful experience here … and played on a wonderful football team. I never at any time thought I would be here beyond the date of graduation.”

Since the 1960’s, collegiate and professional sports programs in Utah, bringing in more African-American athletes, have impacted these demographics. These have also affected Utahns generally increasing their familiarity and acceptance of more African-American residents living throughout the state. Athletes can receive instant notoriety  and respect through their  performance on these sports teams. What would our beloved Brigham Young University and University of Utah sports teams be without the talent of these gifted African-American athletes?

In 1978, the LDS church president, Spencer W. Kimball, announced the revelation that had significant impact on blacks in the dominant culture of Utah. Kimball announced that they would, for the first time, have full rights and privileges within the LDS church. Although they had these full privileges for a very brief period when the church was founded under Joseph Smith, they waited more than 100 years for these privileges to be restored. It did create a sense of prejudice and blacks seemed to have little interest in learning more about the LDS church until it announced this change.

Many think that without the church’s acceptance, with LDS church members making up over 60 percent of the population of Utah, we would not have the significant growth of black residents in Utah. Full acceptance has certainly led to a lowering of barriers in terms of interaction and hospitality toward people of black culture.

This acceptance within the church was thought to bring an impact in terms of future race relations within the state, as well. The number of black people residing in this state has certainly grown rapidly, since that church-wide revelation was made over 30 years ago.

Some notable African-American residents include Judge Tyrone Medley, who was an outstanding basketball player and now a member of the judiciary of Utah’s Third District Court. Joe Tawver, who also was a college athlete and played for the University of Utah football team, is now a police officer in Murray and a well-respected member of the LDS community. Thurl Bailey, Karl Malone and Adrienne Dantley, all Utah Jazz Basketball players, have had a significant African-American impact upon Utahns as well.

Now, with colleges, more available jobs and massive population growth, people of all races and religions are coming to Southern Utah and the entire State. Growing up in California, I was surrounded by diversity at all times and loved having friends of all races and backgrounds.

This city of ours is certainly growing and I hope, as time marches forward, we can break down even more stereotypes and be excited for what diversity can add to all of our lives.

email: [email protected]

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

 

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3 Comments

  • Erich Hciks February 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Keep history alive and well by telling that history:

    Read the untold novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge, where Buffalo Bill Cody meets a Buffalo Soldier, the greatest fictionalized ‘historical novel’ ever written. A great story of Black Military History, the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers…5 stars Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. The website is; http://www.rescueatpineridge.com Youtube commercials are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD66NUKmZPs and
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVslyHmDy9A&feature=related

    Rescue at Pine Ridge is the untold story of the 9th Cavalry from its Congressional conception in 1866, to the rescue of the famed 7th Cavalry by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. The 7th Cavalry was entrapped again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn’t for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of occurred, a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. This story is about, brutality, compassion, reprisal, bravery, heroism and gallantry.

    I know you’ll enjoy the novel. I wrote the story that embodied the Native Americans, Outlaws and African-American/Black Soldiers, from the south to the north, in the days of the Native American Wars with the approaching United States of America.

    The novel was taken from my mini-series movie with the same title, “RaPR” to keep the story alive. The movie so far has the interest of, Mr. Bill Duke, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman, James Whitmore Jr., Reginald T. Dorsey and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with, in starring in this epic American story.

    When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; http://www.alphawolfprods.com and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for the United States Postal System in Montana, in the 1890’s, “spread the word”.

    Peace.

  • Dale Gibson February 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Green Flake, Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby came west with a group called the”Mississippi Saints”. The group left Monroe County, Mississippi in the spring of 1846. Their intention was to meet up with Brigham Young and the main body of pioneers on the trail. Due to delays, the main body didn’t start until the following year, 1847. The Mississippians were as far west as Fort Laramie(present day Wyoming) before they got the news that they were alone on the trail. Not knowing where their final destination was to be, they overwintered in Pueblo, Colorado. The following spring, word came of “Mormons” on the trail heading west. An advance party of the Mississippians, including Green Flake, Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby met up with Brigham Young’s vanguard company at Fort Laramie. The two groups merged and were the first to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley. The Mississippians settled in what became known as Holladay, Utah. Many later settled San Bernardino, California. A small number settled in southern Utah as well.

    Being a descendent of these early pioneers, I have often wondered what became of Green Flake, Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby. I was told that when they arrived in Utah, the “slaves” were given their freedom.
    Not having many options, they remained with their former “masters” as hired hands. They were free to leave at any time. I think some did, but some remained in Utah their entire lives.

  • Lee Baker September 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Blacks Ridiculed again by the Mormon Church
    By Lee B. Baker, Former Mormon Bishop

    For several years now, every Tuesday evening I have had the great privilege of addressing the Christian and Mormon listeners of Worship FM 101.7 in Monrovia, the capital City of Liberia, West Africa.

    I have come to know several of the station managers and a number of the more frequent callers to the weekly program. Through their comments, questions and photographs, I have been genuinely moved to see the application of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Over the past few months the question of racist teachings in the Book of Mormon and from the past Leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been on the minds of the Liberian converts to Mormonism and the many Christians who struggle to understand how such a Church can be growing in Africa.

    I believe the answer is relatively simple; it has been the perfect merging of a sincere lack of knowledge on the part of the Mormon converts and a disturbing lack of accountability on the part of the Mormon leaders. A near total lack of knowledge across Africa specific to some of the more explicit teachings found within the Mormon Scriptures, principally that Black Skin is a representation of wickedness and even less information concerning the racism and bigotry openly and officially taught by the early Leadership of the Mormon Church. This combined with the current Church Leadership’s inability to clearly and specifically reject its own racist teachings both in print and from its past Senior Leadership, has left the Black Race with only a short irresponsible and offensively juvenile Official Statement that claims the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knows very little about its own race-based policy that had lasted for well over 100 years:

    “It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended.”

    Maintaining a detailed and comprehensive history of every aspect and teaching of the Church has been both one of the hallmarks and one of the downfalls of Mormon Church. Within the relatively young Church, authoritative documentation, however corrupt it may have been, has never been in short supply. Each of the Senior Leaders of the Mormon Church has had several official biographers as well as an army of Church authorized historians to record for the faithful Mormon all facets of the History of the Church. In fact, one of my first of many “Callings” in the Mormon Church was that of a Ward (Congregational) Historian, long before I became a Bishop.

    The peculiar assertion that the Mormon Church itself does not know the details of its very own race-based policy of restricting the Blacks from holding the Priesthood is tremendously embarrassing for all Mormons and exceptionally degrading for anyone who actually believes it.

    As a former local leader of the Mormon Church, I have repeatedly assured the African members of the Mormon Church that the documents and “Scriptures” I have read to them over the air are both Authorized and Official for the time period they are relevant to. I clearly state the current position of total acceptance of all Races by the Church, but I must highlight the fact that the Book of Mormon still carries it’s obviously racist message that dark skin was a curse and Jesus was white. I have said many times on-air that like the Mormon Missionaries, I too believe that every African should have a copy of the Book of Mormon, if only to learn the truly racist teaching of the Mormons.

    I have and will continue to teach the African Nations from the authentic Mormon Scriptures and the Church History documents, which I had purchased from the Mormon Church to know my past responsibilities as a Mormon Bishop. The official records of the Mormon Church include many jokes and sermons given within the Official Semi-Annual General Conference of the faithful Mormons, using the “N-word”, Darky and Sambo. Additionally, these Church published books record nearly 100 graphic sermons and lessons that clearly teach the principle, practice and policy that Black Skin was, is and will remain forever the Curse of Cain.

    Only in the recent past has the “Complete History” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints come to the attention of its own membership, much less to the under developed regions of the world. As this information is discovered, an ever increasing number of members of the Mormon Church have come into a personal crisis of faith, most notably Elder Hans Mattsson of Sweden, a General Authority of the Mormon Church who has gone public with his doubts and questions.

    Not unique to Africa, has been the Mormon Church’s training of young Missionaries to strictly avoid any discussion of several of the more embarrassing, yet true, teachings of the 183 year old Church. Chief among these subjects has been Polygamy and Blacks and the Priesthood.

    With the smooth talent of a skilled politician, the Mormon Church has ended its Official Statement with the following hypocritical and deceitful, but technically accurate quote:

    “The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

    As a former Mormon Bishop and member of the Mormon Church for over 32 years, let me be of some help with the translation of this very carefully crafted message. The two key noteworthy phrases are: “in the absence of direct revelation” and “These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

    I will address the most obvious first, clearly the “previous statements” from the Church and its Leadership “do not” represent the Church doctrine today. The policy was reversed in 1978 and there is no question as to the policy today. The hypocritical deception is that between 1845 and 1978 those “statements” did, very much “DID” not “DO” represent past Church doctrine. Yet, I do give full credit to the clever Mormon authors and editors for their most skillful use of the English language.

    And finally, the most revealing and enlightening statement from the Mormon Church is: “in the absence of direct revelation”. So then, it is incredibly true and accurate that without any mockery or sarcasm; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had for nearly 100 years, restricted a significant portion of the human race, millions and millions from God’s intended blessings of Eternal Marriage, Salvation and even Godhood, without knowing why they did it, all without “direct revelation”.

    This Official Statement of religious shame and embarrassment comes from the Headquarters of a Church that claims to be guided in all things by “direct revelation”. How did such an exclusive doctrine based on prejudice, bigotry and racism become so accepted, so authoritative, so convincing and so commanding for so long, without “direct revelation”?

    As a former Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I give testimony that what they have stated is true, in that, they are racist and do not hide the History of the Church from its members or the public, this, their Official Statement on Race and the Church demonstrates that fact.

    I believe that the truly wicked teachings as well as the repulsive history of the Mormon Church concerning Polygamy, Polyandry, Blood Atonement, and Blacks and the Priesthood is available for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

    It is my prayer that all Mormons and non-Mormons will come to know the true history of the Mormon Church. That every man, woman and young adult on the earth today will find the time to read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price from cover to cover to see the evilness they hold, and then… read the Bible with the eyes of a child, and follow the true Jesus the true Christ found only in the Bible.

    Sincerely,

    Lee B. Baker
    Former Mormon Bishop

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