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Celebrating pioneers of color and their legacy in Utah

Posted at 9:30 PM, Jul 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-24 23:35:37-04

SALT LAKE CITY — For the 175th anniversary of Mormon pioneers arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, FOX 13 News took a look back at pioneers of color who are often forgotten about when Utahns look back on history.

“These are people who were basically erased from public perception,” said Paul Reeve, the Simmons Chair of Mormon Studies at the University of Utah.

Reeve has made it a mission in life to start the Century of Black Mormons database.

While those faces were often forgotten by history, they are remembered by descendants who talk about their history proudly.

“The influence of the saints on the state of Utah is you can't miss it," said Cade Wilbur, who can trace his ancestry back to a pioneer of color. “My great-great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Tate, was from India.”

As a part of honoring pioneers of color, a historic occasion was celebrated Friday ahead of the Pioneer Day weekend as a new work of art honoring Black pioneers was unveiled at “This is the Place" Heritage Park in Salt Lake City.

The new monument, called Pioneers of 1847, represents the contributions made by Black pioneers to the migration and settlement of Utah.

Those featured in the monument include Green Flake, Hark Wales, Oscar Smith, and Jane Manning and her children.

Gov. Spencer Cox, along with members of the NAACP, were among the large crowd that showed up to commemorate the long-awaited moment.

"For people to come together and be excited about our history, our joint history, is exciting. It’s unifying," said actor and musician Yahosh Bonner.

Bonner played Flake in the film "His Name is Green Flake.”

The bronze cast sculptures arrived just two days before the dedication.

"To be able to see statues of people who represent me, who come from where my ancestors came from, I think is so special," added Bonner. "Because it gives me a place, and it makes me feel more included and a part.”

Bonner and many others hope the monument serves as a space for education, reflection and healing for centuries to come.