African Americans have been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints almost since its founding in 1830. Their numbers started out small but their role was significant. Green Flake, for example, LDS President Brigham Young’s driver and scout, was one of the first Mormon pioneers to reach the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
For 126 years (1852-1978) men of African ancestry were denied the priesthood, and other restrictions were placed on black women and children. But during the 22 years before the ban was in place, African Americans, such as Elijah Abel and Joseph T. Ball, played important roles in the Church.
As an LDS Bishop, Ball led the Boston congregation in the mid-1840s. At the time it was the largest congregation outside of church headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois.
After the ban was lifted, African Americans, such as internationally prominent entertainer Gladys Knight, Utah Jazz basketball star and actor Thurl Lee Bailey, and many others joined the Church. One black LDS member, Mia Love, sits in the U.S. Congress representing Utah’s 4th Congressional District.
Far larger numbers of Africans and people of African ancestry in Latin America were converted as well. Today, an estimated 700,000 people of African ancestry call the LDS faith their own.
BlackPast.org captures that history. With financial support from the Church, they have assembled profiles on individual LDS women and men written by LDS and non-LDS volunteer contributors. They also have documents, speeches, and public statements from the LDS Church and other sources.
The LDS section at BlackPast.org also includes a bibliography of the leading books on the subject and features a timeline that briefly outlines the history of black Mormons. These resources are the largest concentration of information on Blacks and the LDS church on the Internet.
This is not, however, a static page. BlackPast.org invites others to contribute profiles of significant LDS Church members of African ancestry, to write articles on the history of Blacks and the Church, and to suggest other resources that can be linked to this page.
BlackPast.org also needs your help in spreading this information to LDS members and non-LDS folks around the world. We believe this history should be shared with all. If you are interested in contributing please contact, [email protected].