I’m excited to share the stories I learned while writing Utah Women: Pioneers, Poets, and Politicians, so I’m going to post some “teasers” here on my blog over the next few months leading up to release day.
Today is Pioneer Day in Utah, celebrating the arrival of the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. An often overlooked part of that early pioneer migration are the free and enslaved black people who came to Utah in the westward trek – including Green Flake, one of several slaves in the vanguard company of pioneers and the man who drove Brigham Young’s wagon when the LDS leader uttered his famous (if possibly misquoted) proclamation over the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847: “This is the right place. Drive on.”
Biddy Mason was another early black Utah pioneer. Born a slave in the South, she would end her life as one of the richest women in California: just one of the many remarkable women from Utah’s history!
Below: Biddy Mason, image courtesy of the National Park Sevice.
For more on the ongoing efforts to document the lives of black Utah pioneers, check out historian Paul Reeves’ online database, “A Century of Black Mormons.”