James, Jane Elizabeth Manning

Biography

photo of  Jane Elizabeth Manning James

Jane Elizabeth Manning James is one of the best-documented African American Mormons of the nineteenth century. Her LDS journey took her from Connecticut to Nauvoo, where she worked in the home of Joseph Smith, and thence to Utah. James practiced a charismatic form of Mormonism that emphasized communion with the divine through spiritual gifts over temple access and priesthood power. She also provoked an important ritual innovation by church leaders (though not one that endured in LDS ritual practice). Late in her life, James leveraged her experience in the Smith household to ensure that she was accorded the respect of the community and that the story of her life was recorded and shared with the community.

Jane Elizabeth Manning was born in Wilton, Connecticut, probably in the early 1820s. [1] Her mother, Philes Manning, had been enslaved but Connecticut’s gradual emancipation laws meant that Philes was free by the time of Jane’s birth, although Jane’s grandmother remained enslaved for the rest of her life. [2] Little is known of Jane’s father, Isaac Manning, except that he is reported to have come from Newtown, Connecticut and that he died in approximately 1825. [3] The Mannings owned their home in Wilton, but at a young age, probably because her father died, Jane was sent to work for Joseph and Hannah Fitch, likely as an indentured servant. The Fitches lived a short distance away in New Canaan, Connecticut. Jane James would later recall that the Fitches’ daughter “raised” her. [4] In the Fitches’ home, Manning learned the skills of domestic service that she would use for the rest of her life. She may also have learned to read, and possibly (though less likely) to write.

In approximately 1839, Jane Manning gave birth to her first child, Sylvester. [5] Although the question of Sylvester’s father’s identity was clearly the topic of discussion among her community even a half-century later, Manning refused to identify the man. Several stories circulated about Sylvester’s father, including that he was a white preacher and that he was a French Canadian. [6] It is likely that Sylvester was the child of rape, though the possibility remains that he was conceived in a consensual sexual relationship that Jane James concealed for reasons that are no longer available to us.

In 1841, Jane Manning was baptized and joined the New Canaan Congregational Church, the church to which her employer Hannah Fitch belonged. [7] (Joseph Fitch had died several years earlier.) She was one of several African American members of the congregation. Evidence does not indicate what the New Canaan Congregational Church policy was, but many Congregational Churches segregated black worshipers, usually relegating them to the gallery. [8] Jane James never explained why she joined the Congregational Church, but many years later she recalled that it wasn’t enough: she was looking for “something more.” [9]

When Manning heard LDS missionary Charles Wesley Wandell preach in the winter of 1842-1843, she knew she had found what she was looking for. As she later said, she “was fully convinced that it was the true Gospel he presented and [she] must embrace it.” She was baptized and confirmed the following Sunday. [10]

Not long after joining the church, Manning received the gift of tongues as she prayed, an experience she interpreted as a confirmation of her decision to be baptized and confirmed in the LDS Church. [11] This may have been the first time that Manning spoke in tongues, but it was certainly not the last: she would continue to exercise this gift throughout her life, as minutes of Relief Society and Retrenchment Society meetings in the late nineteenth century document.

It appears that the rest of Manning’s family followed her into the LDS Church. (There is some suggestion that her brother Isaac had been baptized earlier, but the evidence for this version of events is sparse. [12] ) By the following fall, the Manning family had sold their property and were ready to set out for Nauvoo, Illinois, under the leadership of Charles Wesley Wandell and in the company of other converts, both black and white, from southwestern Connecticut. [13] From Fairfield County, the group traveled to New York City and thence up the Hudson River. When they reached Albany, they turned west and traveled on the Erie Canal to Buffalo, where the canal connected to Lake Erie.

At Buffalo, or perhaps later at Akron or Cleveland, the black travelers in Wandell’s group were refused passage because of their race. [14] Some of them may have returned to Connecticut at this point, but Jane Manning and most of her family pressed on. Manning made arrangements for Wandell to transport her luggage to Nauvoo and, with her family, set out walking. [15] They finally arrived in Nauvoo in the late fall, having walked hundreds of miles.

According to James’s later accounts of this journey, the Mannings had multiple experiences with faith healing as they traveled. “We walked until our shoes were worn out, and our feet became sore and cracked open and bled until you could see the whole print of our feet with blood on the ground. We stopped and united in prayer to the Lord, we asked God the Eternal Father to heal our feet and our prayers were answered and our feet were healed forthwith,” she remembered. [16] James also told of healing a child who was not part of their group: “At La Harpe [Illinois] we came to a place where there was a very sick child, we administered to it, and the child was healed,” she recalled, continuing: “I found after [that] the elders had before this given it up as they did not think it could live.” [17] James would continue to practice faith healing throughout her life: in 1896, James spoke up in a Retrenchment Society meeting, telling the other women present that “she had been terribly afflicted in her head, and she took her consecrated oil and anointed herself and she was healed. Felt that that was faith, and praised the Lord for her blessings.” [18] James practiced faith healing and spoke publicly about it even as the church’s late-nineteenth-century leaders restricted the official view on women’s authority to heal. [19]

Jane Manning’s Mormonism, in which spiritual gifts like tongues and healing played a major role, may have reached its fullest expression in Nauvoo. There, Manning worked as a domestic servant in the Smiths’ Mansion House. She was in charge of the laundry. On her first day as the Mansion House laundress, James remembered, Emma Smith brought a pile of clothes for her to wash. “Among the clothes I found brother Joseph[’]s Robes,” James later recalled. “I looked at them and wondered, I had never seen any before, and I pondered over them and thought about them so earnestly that the spirit made manifest to me that they pertained to the new name that is given the saints that the world knows not of[…]. I didn[’]t know when I washed them or when I put them out to dry.” [20] When James told this story in the early twentieth century, her LDS audience understood that the Holy Spirit had provided James with information about temple ceremonies that church leaders would not allow her to participate in.

Working at the Mansion House, Jane Manning was also privy to secret information that her co-religionists shared with her. In her autobiography, Jane James remembered that “Brother Joseph[’]s four wives[,] Emily Partridge[,] Eliza Partridge, Maria and Sarah Lawrence and myself, were sitting discussing Mormonism and Sarah said[, ‘]what would you think if a man had more wives than one?[’] I said[, ‘]that is all right![’] Maria said[, ‘]Well we are all four Brother Josephs wives![’] I jumped up and clapped my hands and said[, ‘]that’s good,[’] Sarah said[, ‘]she is all right, just listen she believes it all now.[’]” [21] In fact, the Partridge sisters and the Lawrence sisters had all married Joseph Smith in the spring of 1843, several months before the Manning family’s arrival in Nauvoo. [22]

Jane Manning was also given access to sacred objects when she worked at the Mansion House. “I had to pass through Mother Smith[’]s room to get to mine,” Jane James later recalled, referring to Lucy Mack Smith (Joseph Smith’s mother). “[S]he would often stop me and talk to me, she told me all Brother Josephs troubles, and what he had suffered in publishing the Book of Mormon.” But that was not all Mother Smith shared with Jane Manning. One morning around Christmas, James recalled, when she entered Lucy Mack Smith’s room, Smith “said [‘]good morning bring me that bundle from my bureau and sit down here[.’] I did as she told me, she placed the bundle in my hands and said, [‘]handle this and then put in the top drawer of my…bureau and lock it up[.’ A]fter I had done it she said[, ‘]sit down. Do you remember that I told you about the Urim and Thumim when I told you about the book of Mormon?[’] I answered[, ‘Y]es Ma[’a]m,[’] she then told me I had just handled it, [‘]You are not permitted to see it, but you have been permitted to handle it. You will live long after I am dead and gone And you can tell the Latter-day Saints, that you was permitted to handle the Urim and Thum[m]im.[’]” [23]

Joseph Smith said that he had returned the Urim and Thummim—the “interpreters” provided for reading the golden plates on which the original Book of Mormon was written—to a divine messenger when he was finished translating the book. However, he and those close to him used the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer to “any stones used to receive divine revelations,” a category that included the seer stones Smith owned before he started down the path to founding the LDS Church. [24] In an 1899 conversation with Elvira Stevens Barney, a white Mormon woman, James described the object Mother Smith had allowed her to handle: “The instrument as near as I can describe it, which I handled, was made of some kind of metal, because it was so very heavy. It was firmly attached, one piece upon another. One piece seemed to be about the size of my wrist,” which Barney interjected was “good size and not perfectly round.” James went on: “The other piece was not so large. These were set upright in a circular base.” This description of stones set in an armature sounded more like the original set of interpreters than it did like the “ordinary” seer stones that Jane probably handled. But Jane was careful to quash speculation about the objects to which she had access, telling Barney that Mother Smith “did not say that Joseph used it to translate the Book of Mormon.” [25]

Manning requested and received a patriarchal blessing from Hyrum Smith in March of 1844. [26] It was and remains customary for a patriarchal blessing to identify the recipient’s lineage, the biblical figure from whom Mormons believed they were spiritually, or sometimes literally, descended. [27] Most Latter-day Saints were identified as members of the tribe of Ephraim, but Hyrum Smith told Manning that she had “a promise through the Father of the New World coming down in the lineage of Cainaan [sic] the Son of Ham.” He also assured Manning that “he that changeth times and seasons and placed a mark upon your forehead, can take it off and stamp upon you his own Image.” In these two phrases, Smith burdened Manning with all of the baggage of contemporary Euro-American racial folklore. By identifying her as descended from Canaan, Smith invoked Noah’s curse that Canaan would be a “servant of servants,” one of the biblical texts white Americans used to justify race-based slavery. [28] And Smith’s discussion of the “mark upon [Manning’s] forehead” referred directly to the story of Cain, the biblical first murderer, whose “mark” Euro-Americans believed was passed down in the form of the dark skin of African-descended people. [29]

Sometime after Joseph Smith’s death, Jane Manning married Isaac James, a black convert from New Jersey who had arrived in Nauvoo a couple years before Jane. [30] At the time, Jane was working for Brigham Young, as Isaac may also have been. No extant records reveal whether the couple were sealed to each other in their marriage ceremony, as some other Mormon couples were, but Jane apparently did not think she had been sealed to Isaac: later in her life, she requested a marriage sealing to another black Mormon man, but did not mention a need to cancel a sealing to Isaac. Jane and Isaac James also do not appear in records of early sealings in the Nauvoo Temple, though the temple and priesthood restrictions that would later keep people of African descent from participating in endowment and sealing rituals had not yet been formulated.

When the Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo, the Jameses went with them. Jane, Isaac, and Sylvester traveled with the second wave of Saints through Iowa, eventually ending up in the ten led by George Parker Dykes. Jane was pregnant with her second child, a boy they named Silas, born in June 1846 in Iowa. Midwife Patty Sessions, who was also in Dykes’ ten, delivered the child. [31] Shortly thereafter, Dykes’ ten arrived in Council Bluffs. Dykes volunteered for the Mormon Battalion; his letters to his plural wives show that Jane and Isaac James stayed with the Dykes family, helping them to prepare for the upcoming journey to the Great Salt Lake Valley. [32]

Jane James said little about the trek to the Great Basin. She and her family traveled in Isaac Haight’s ten, arriving in September, 1847. [33] Jane was pregnant with her third child, Mary Ann, who would be born in the spring of 1848. The Jameses initially lived just north of the Temple on a lot owned by Brigham Young, who employed both of them through the mid-1850s. [34] At some point, they moved to the First Ward, in the southeast corner of Salt Lake, where Isaac worked as a farmer. Economically, the Jameses did well for themselves: tax records show that they owned livestock, equipment, and personal property in addition to real estate. They were not the wealthiest family in their ward, but neither were they the poorest. [35] The Jameses continued to add children to their family: Sylvester, Silas, and Mary Ann were joined by Miriam (born 1850), Ellen Madora (born1852 or 1853), Isaac James (stillborn, 1854), Jesse Jereboam (born 1857), and Vilate (born 1859).

In 1870, Jane James’s family life began to unravel. She and Isaac James divorced that spring. Jane was awarded custody of the minor children as well as ownership of most of the couple’s property. [36] Later that year, she traded her homesite for a property in the Eighth Ward, closer to the center of the city. Isaac also sold the land he had been awarded in the divorce, and left Salt Lake. [37] The divorce was the beginning of a long string of losses for James. Her daughter Mary Ann, and two of Mary Ann’s infant sons, died over the course of eleven months between May 1870 and April 1871. The following year, James’s son Silas died of “consumption.” In 1874, James’s daughter Miriam and Miriam’s youngest child Nettie died. [38] James had given birth to eight children; half of them had predeceased her by 1875.

Sometime in 1874, Jane James remarried. Her new husband, Frank Perkins, was a black Mormon widower who had arrived in the Salt Lake Valley as the slave of Reuben Perkins. Mary Ann Perkins, the daughter of Frank Perkins and his first wife, had married Jane James’s son Sylvester James about a decade earlier. [39] The evidence for Jane James’s marriage is circumstantial: she begins appearing in Relief Society records as “Jane Perkins,” and in 1875 she and Frank Perkins performed baptisms for the dead together in the Salt Lake Endowment House, a ritual in which neither would have been allowed to participate if their relationship had not conformed to LDS standards for sexual activity. [40] At some point in 1876, Jane and Frank Perkins’ marriage ended: “Jane Perkins” disappeared from church records and “Jane James” appeared in her place. [41] James used her first husband’s surname for the rest of her life.

Brigham Young directed that the Endowment House be opened to African American Saints on Friday, September 3, 1875. Jane and Frank Perkins went with several other African American Mormons—Samuel and Amanda Chambers, Susan and Ned Leggroan, Annis Bell Lucas Evans, and Frank’s daughter Mary Ann Perkins James. At Young’s direction, the rituals they performed were recorded “to be entered in a Book by themselves; the book to be headed ‘Record of Baptisms for the Dead of the ( Seed of Cain’) or (of the People of African Descent).” Jane Perkins was baptized for only one person, a friend from Connecticut named Susan Brown. [42]

By the 1880s, Jane James had started what would become a multi-decade campaign to receive her endowment and be sealed in the temple, privileges that she was denied because she was black. James’s most persistent request was that she be sealed to Joseph Smith as a child pursuant to an offer she said had been made to her by Smith through his wife Emma when James had lived with the Smith family in Nauvoo. [43] James had declined the offer at the time, but she desperately wanted to change her answer now. As James told the story to President John Taylor in 1884, “Sister Emma [Smith] came to me & asked me how I would like to be adopted to them as a Child[.] I did not comprehend her & she came again[.] I was so green I did not give her a decided answer & Joseph died & [I] remain as I am[. I]f I could be adopted to him as a child my Soul would be satisfied.” [44] In addition to requesting sealing to Joseph Smith as a child, James requested permission to receive her endowment and to be sealed in marriage to Q. Walker Lewis, one of only a few black Mormon men to have held the priesthood in the nineteenth century. [45] She also requested endowments for her dead relatives and requested adoption sealing for Isaac James and her brother Isaac Manning. [46] James visited church leaders to talk with them in person; she dictated letters to them; and she had friends write letters on her behalf. In her letter to President John Taylor, James made a theological argument: “I realize my race & color & cant expect my Endowments as others who are white[.] My race was handed down through the flood & God promised Abraham that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blest & as this is the fullness of all dispensations is there no blessing for me[?]” [47] But in most of her requests, James relied on her reputation as a pious Mormon and her personal relationship with Joseph Smith. None of her requests were granted during her lifetime.

In 1889, James requested and received a second patriarchal blessing, this one given by Church Patriarch John Smith. [48] “The Lord has heard thy petitions,” Smith assured James. He continued, “He knowest the secrets of thy heart, He has witnessed thy trials and although thy life has been somewhat checkered His hand has been over thee for good and thou shalt verily receive thy reward.” Smith reiterated that promise, telling James, “thy days and years shall be prolonged until thou art satisfied.” James may have taken Smith’s blessing as encouragement to persist in her campaign for endowments and sealings. Smith also promised James that “for thy kindness Many shall bless thee in thine old age and as a Mother in Israel thou shalt be known among the people,” reassuring her that her community would respect her and that her story would be remembered.

In 1890, Isaac James returned to Salt Lake and to Jane James’s life. He lived in Jane James’s home, but whether the couple remarried is unknown: no record exists, and Jane James’s surname did not change. Isaac James was rebaptized in July of 1890. Jane and Isaac’s renewed coexistence was brief: Isaac died on November 20, 1891. [49] Jane James held his funeral in her house. [50]

Not long after Isaac James’s death, Jane James welcomed her brother Isaac Manning into her home. [51] Manning had not traveled to Utah with the Mormons who followed Brigham Young; he had remained in the Midwest and lived for a time in Canada. He had been a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but in March of 1893, he was rebaptized as a member of the LDS Church. [52] Jane and Isaac were fixtures in the community: they were profiled regularly in local newspapers, and given special seats in the Tabernacle for meetings there. [53]

Jane James consistently participated in LDS women’s organizations throughout the 1880s and into the first decade of the twentieth century. She spoke in tongues—sometimes with interpretation given by another woman, and sometimes without; she bore her testimony; she requested prayers; she donated money and goods; and she exhorted her co-religionists, urging them to greater faith and more virtuous behavior. [54] At a November 1893 meeting, for example, the secretary of the Retrenchment Society reported that “Sister Jane James, said many encouraging things but felt that she could not express her feelings. Said she hoped light would yet reach her people and prayed that her son, might be faithful and go to them, as the Prophet Joseph had predicted. She then spoke in tongues, Sister Paul giving the interpretation.” [55] In these gatherings, James found an appreciative audience for her memories of Joseph Smith and for her practice of a form of Mormonism built around the exercise of spiritual gifts, a form of Mormonism that had largely been replaced by a more tightly controlled, temple-focused version of the faith.

Nevertheless, Jane James placed great importance on temple rituals. In 1888, she traveled to Logan, Utah to do baptisms for several of her dead female relatives. [56] And in 1894, she went to the Salt Lake temple to be baptized by proxy for her dead niece. [57] She also continued to request permission to receive her endowment and to be sealed as a child to Joseph Smith.

On May 18, 1894, church leaders finally bowed to the pressure Jane James had applied and allowed her to be sealed to Joseph Smith. However, they did not allow her to be adopted as a daughter in his family. Instead, they created a ceremony to seal her to Smith as a “servitor” in eternity. James was not allowed to be present at the ceremony, which was performed in the Salt Lake temple; instead, Zina D. H. Young and Joseph F. Smith served as proxies for Jane James and Joseph Smith. [58] Both Jane James and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles seem to have found this ritual innovation unsatisfactory. Notes from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles’ meetings indicate that Jane James continued to request adoption sealing, suggesting her dissatisfaction; and the ceremony was never performed again, suggestion that church leaders were also dissatisfied. [59]

Isaac Manning’s presence may have helped Jane James deal with her son Jesse James’s ten-month illness, which began in late summer, 1893. Jesse James had lived in the hotel where he worked in Salt Lake, but when he became ill he was paralyzed, according to his death record. [60] Jane James took her son home and cared for him until his death on May 20, 1894. [61] After Jesse’s death, only three of Jane James’s children—Sylvester, Ellen Madora, and Vilate—remained alive.

In 1897, the Deseret News printed the notice of the death of Jane James’s daughter Vilate. [62] Vilate James had married a Methodist minister, William Warner, and the couple had served as missionaries in Liberia. They had returned to the States because of illness in 1893, and Vilate died in Oakland, California a few years later. [63] The death notice printed in the Deseret News is the best evidence that Vilate and her mother had kept in touch; no other evidence of their ongoing connection survives.

Sylvester and Ellen Madora were the only two of Jane James’s children to live past her death on April 16, 1908. Her passing was front page news and her funeral, which was well attended, included remarks from Joseph F. Smith, the president of the LDS Church. [64] She was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery

By Quincy D. Newell

Primary Sources

A List of President Brigham Young’s Family Residing in the 18th Ward. March 19, 1855. CR 1234 1, Box 170, Folder 26, Brigham Young office files; Miscellaneous Files, 1832-1878; Family information, circa 1853-1858. Church History Library. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Alder, Lydia D. “Ladies’ Semi-Momthly [sic] Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 15 December 1896, 78.

———. “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 December 1893, 66.

———. “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 June 1894, 141.

———. “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 January 1895, 226.

———. “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 June 1897, 155.

Anderson, Devery S., ed. The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History . Smith-Pettit Foundation Book. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2011.

“‘Aunt Jane’ Laid to Rest,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 21 April 1908, 2.

Barney, Elvira Stevens, “Jane Manning James: Dr. Elvira Stevens Barney Interviews a Well Known Colored Woman,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 4 October 1899, 8.

Buerger, David J. “Confidential Research Files on Changes in Temple Ceremony, 1950-1974,” David J. Buerger papers, Ms 622, Box 24, folders 5-8, Salt Lake City, Utah, n.d., Special Collections and Archives, Marriott Library, University of Utah.

Camp of Israel Schedules and Reports. Spring 1847 Emigration Camp, First 100, Second 50. Travel Report, 1847 September. 3 September 1847. MS 14290, Box 2, Folder 2. Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Endowment House. Colored Brethren and Sisters. Endowment House. Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 3, 1875. Genealogical Society of Utah, 1961. Microfilm 255498. Family History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Logan Temple. “Baptisms for the Dead, 1884-1943,” Microfilm 0,177,847. Family History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Death of Issac [sic] James,” Deseret Weekly (Salt Lake City, Utah), 28 November 1891, 24.

“Death of Jane Manning James: Servant in Family of Prophet Joseph Smith at Nauvoo Passes Away Today.” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 16 April 1908, 1.

“Died.” Deseret Evening News. March 4, 1897.

Dinger, John S., ed. The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2011.

Dykes, George Parker to Diantha, Alcina and Cynthia Dykes, 1846 July-September, n.d. Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Eighth Ward, Liberty Stake. “Eighth Ward General Minutes.” Salt Lake City, Utah, n.d. LR 2525 11. Church History Library. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Eighth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records (1867-1969). Salt Lake City, Utah, n.d. LR 2525 14. Church History Library. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

“First Negroes to Join Mormon Church,” Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah), 2 October 1899, 5.

“Funeral of Isaac Manning.” Deseret Evening News, April 17, 1911.

Hyde, A. T. “Ladies Semi-Monthly Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 September 1896, 84.

Hyde, Zina. “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 February 1896, 110.

James, Jane Manning. “Jane Manning James Autobiography.” Salt Lake City, Utah, ca 1902. MS 4425. Church History Library. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Lawrence, Florence. Henrietta Leggroan Bankhead interview. Transcript. November 22, 1977. Helen Zeese Papanikolas papers, box 2, folder 3. Salt Lake City, Utah, n.d. Special Collections. J. Willard Marriott Library. University of Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Little, Jesse C. “Tax Assessment Rolls.” Salt Lake City (Utah) Assessor, 1856. Series 4922, Box 1, Folder 1. Utah State Archives.

———. “Tax Assessment Rolls.” Salt Lake City (Utah) Assessor, 1858. Series 4922, Box 1, Folder 3. Utah State Archives.

Methodist Episcopal Church, Missionary Society. Seventy-Fifth Annual Report of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Year 1893 . New York, 1894.

Newell, Linda King. Linda King Newell papers, Ms 447, Box 12, Folder 27. Special Collections. J. Willard Marriott Library. University of Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Non-Population Census Schedules for Utah Territory and Vermont, 1870: Mortality. 1870. U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885; Archive Collection: M1807; Archive Roll Number: 1; Census Year: 1870.

O’Donovan, Connell. “Chronology Pertaining to Blacks and the LDS Church | Jane M. James Sealed as Eternal Servant to Joseph Smith | Event View.” Accessed May 4, 2012.

Record of Deaths in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, Management and Archives, Film 4,139,830. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Roundy, E[lizabeth] J[efford] D[rake]. “Communicated.” Deseret Evening News, April 17, 1911.

Salt Lake Temple Records, Baptisms for the Dead, Book D, 1894-1895, n.d. Family History Library. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sessions, Patty Bartlett. Mormon Midwife: The 1846-1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions. Edited by Donna Toland Smart Logan: Utah State University Press, 1997.

Smith, Elias. Jane E. James v. Isaac James. Salt Lake County Probate Court. Civil and Criminal Case Files. Series 373, box 14, folder 46. March 1870. Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Smith, Hyrum. Patriarchal Blessing. March 6, 1844. Copy in possession of Quincy D. Newell, courtesy of Louis Duffy.

Smith, John. Patriarchal Blessing. October 10, 1889. Copy in possession of Quincy D. Newell, courtesy of Louis Duffy.

Smith, Rev. Theophilus. “Pastoral Book.” Typescript. New Canaan Congregational Church, July 5, 1838. New Canaan Historical Society Library, New Canaan, Connecticut.

“Some Living Pioneers,” Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah), 6 July 1897, 8.

United States. 1850 Census. Utah Territory, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City.

United States. 1860 Census. Utah Territory, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City 14th Ward.

United States. 1870 Census. Utah Territory, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City 8th Ward.

United States. 1880 Census. Utah Territory, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City 8th and 9th Ward.

United States. 1900 Census. Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City First Precinct.

Unsigned. “R.S. and Y.L. Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 November 1885, 85.

———. “Semi-Monthly Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 December 1889, 102.

Utah Gazetteer, 1892-93 . Salt Lake City, Utah: Stenhouse and Co., 1892.

Utah. Salt Lake County Death Records, 1849-1949. Microfilm 4,139,616. Family History Library. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Utah. State Board of Health. Death Certificate. File No. 632. Registered No. 14769. Jane E. James. Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Van Hoosear, David Hermon. “Annals of Wilton: Negroes of Wilton (Continued).” Wilton Bulletin (March 23, 1939): 6.

Wilton, Connecticut, Town Clerk. Land Records, 1802-1902, Vol. 9: 1843-1851. Genealogical Society of Utah, 1986, 1987 1949. Film 6252. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Woolley, J. S. “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 July 1899, 21.

———. “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 15 October 1899, 58.

Wright, Hannah M. “Ladies Semi-Monthly Meeting.” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 November 1898, 62.

Secondary Sources

Boles, Richard J. “Documents Relating to African American Experiences of White Congregational Churches in Massachusetts, 1773-1832.” The New England Quarterly 86, no. 2 (2013): 310–23.

Carter, Kate B. The Story of the Negro Pioneer. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1965.

Coleman, Ronald G. “‘Is There No Blessing for Me?’: Jane Elizabeth Manning James, A Mormon African American Woman.” In African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000. Edited by Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Wilson Moore. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003.

Compton, Todd. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997.

Cruson, Daniel. The Slaves of Central Fairfield County: The Journey from Slave to Freeman in Nineteenth-Century Connecticut . Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2007.

James, Jane Elizabeth Manning. FindAGrave.com.

Launius, Roger D. Invisible Saints: A History of Black Americans in the Reorganized Church . Independence, Mo.: Herald Pub. House, 1988.

Mauss, Armand L. All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.

Mueller, Max Perry. Race and the Making of the Mormon People. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

Newell, Quincy D. “The Autobiography and Interview of Jane Elizabeth Manning James.” Journal of Africana Religions 1, no. 2 (2013): 251-91.

Newell, Quincy D. “‘Is There No Blessing for Me?’ Jane James’s Construction of Space in Latter-day Saint History and Practice.” In New Perspectives in Mormon Studies: Creating and Crossing Boundaries , edited by Quincy D. Newell and Eric F. Mason. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.

Newell, Quincy D. “Jane James’s Agency.” In Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Kate Holbrook and Matthew Bowman. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016.

Newell, Quincy D. Narrating Jane: Telling the Story of an Early African American Mormon Woman . Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture 21. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2016.

Newell, Quincy D. “What Jane James Saw.” In Directions for Mormon Studies in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Patrick Q. Mason. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016.

Newell, Quincy D. Your Sister in the Gospel: The Life of Jane Manning James, a Nineteenth-Century Black Mormon . New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Stapley, Jonathan A., "Jane Manning James in the Woman's Exponent."

Stapley, Jonathan A., and Kristine Wright. “Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism.” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 1–85.

Turner, John G. Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.

Wolfinger, Henry J. “A Test of Faith: Jane Elizabeth James and the Origins of the Utah Black Community.” In Social Accommodation in Utah, edited by Clark S. Knowlton, 126–72. American West Center Occasional Papers. Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1975.


[1] Sources disagree about the year of James’s birth. See, for example, Hyrum Smith, “Patriarchal Blessing,” March 6, 1844, copy in my possession, courtesy of Louis Duffy, LDS Church History Library, which gives James’s birthdate as May 11, 1818; Linda King Newell, “James, Jane E. M.--Miscellaneous Material,” Linda King Newell Papers, Marriott Library Special Collections, University of Utah, which gives James’s birthdate as May 11, 1822, based on 8th Ward [LDS Church] records; and John Smith, “Patriarchal Blessing,” October 10, 1889, copy in my possession, courtesy of Louis Duffy, which gives James’s birthdate as May 11, 1821.

[2] Daniel Cruson, The Slaves of Central Fairfield County: The Journey from Slave to Freeman in Nineteenth-Century Connecticut (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2007), 14, 16.

[3] David Hermon Van Hoosear, “Annals of Wilton: Negroes of Wilton (Continued),” Wilton Bulletin, March 23, 1939.

[4] Jane Manning James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography” (ca. 1902), folio 1 recto, MS 4425, LDS Church History Library.

[5] Newell, “James, Jane E. M.--Miscellaneous Material”; see also Elizabeth J. D. Roundy’s note appended to Jane James’s autobiography, James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography,” folio 5 recto.

[6] The suggestion that Sylvester’s father was a white preacher was made by James’s brother Isaac, according to Elizabeth J. D. Roundy’s note appended to James’s autobiography. See James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography,” fol. 5r. The suggestion that he was French Canadian is in Henrietta Bankhead’s oral history. See Florence Lawrence, Henrietta Leggroan Bankhead interview, transcript, November 22, 1977, 9, 24, Helen Zeese Papanikolas papers, box 2, folder 3, Marriott Library Special Collections, University of Utah.

[7] Rev. Theophilus Smith, “Pastoral Book” (typescript, July 5, 1838), New Canaan Historical Society Library.

[8] Richard J. Boles, “Documents Relating to African American Experiences of White Congregational Churches in Massachusetts, 1773-1832,” The New England Quarterly 86, no. 2 (2013): 315.

[9] James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography,” fol. 1r.

[10] James, fol. 1r.

[11] James, fol. 1r.

[12] Elizabeth J. D. Roundy’s sketch of Isaac Manning’s life seems to be the source of the story that Isaac Manning converted in 1835. I have not found any evidence to support her assertion. E[lizabeth] J[efford] D[rake] Roundy, “Communicated,” Deseret Evening News, April 17, 1911.

[13] The sale of the Manning home is recorded in Town Clerk Wilton, Connecticut, “Land Records, 1802-1902, Vol. 9: 1843-1851” (Genealogical Society of Utah, 1986, 1987 1949), Film 6252, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[14] James remembered splitting up at Buffalo in her autobiography. See James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography,” fol. 1r. Elvira Stevens Barney reported that the group split up at “Eckland, Ohio,” probably a mispronunciation or a mishearing of “Akron, Ohio.” (There was no place called “Eckland” in Ohio at the time.) See Elvira Stevens Barney, “Jane Manning James: Dr. Elvira Stevens Barney Interviews a Well Known Colored Woman,” Deseret Evening News, October 4, 1899. Charles Wesley Wandell was brought up on charges in a church court in Nauvoo for “unchristian conduct” for leaving the black members of his group in Cleveland. See John S. Dinger, The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2011), 480.

[15] James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography,” folio 2 verso.

[16] James, folio 1 verso.

[17] James, folio 2 recto.

[18] Lydia D. Alder, “Ladies’ Semi-Momthly [sic] Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, December 15, 1896.

[19] Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, “Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 32–53, especially 37-38.

[20] James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography,” folios 2 verso-3 recto.

[21] James, fol. 3r.

[22] Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 6.

[23] James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography,” folios 3 recto-3 verso. On the timing of this event, see Barney, “Jane Manning James.”

[24] Richard E. Turley, Jr., Robin S. Jensen, and Mark Ashurst-McGee, “Joseph the Seer,” Ensign, October 2015, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/10/joseph-the-seer?lang=eng.

[25] Barney, “Jane Manning James.”

[26] Smith, “1844 Patriarchal Blessing.”

[27] Armand L. Mauss, All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 17–24.

[28] Genesis 9:25.

[29] Genesis 4:15.

[30] James, “Jane Manning James Autobiography,” fol. 3v.

[31] Patty Bartlett Sessions and Donna Toland Smart, Mormon Midwife: The 1846-1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1997), 54–55.

[32] George Parker Dykes, Fort Leavenworth, to Brigham Young, Council Bluff, August 17, 1846, “Brigham Young Office Files, 1832-1878,” LDS Church History Library; George Parker Dykes, Santa Fe, to Mrs. Dykes, Council Bluffs, October 11, 1846 “George Parker Dykes to Diantha, Alcina, and Cynthia Dykes, 1846 July-September,” box 1, folder 12, image 27, LDS Church History Library.

[33] “Camp of Israel Schedules and Reports: Spring 1847 Emigration Camp, First 100, Second 50, Travel Report, 1847 September,” September 1847, MS 14290, box 2, folder 2, LDS Church History Library.

[34] John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), 218; “A List of President Brigham Young’s Family Residing in the 18th Ward.,” March 19, 1855, Brigham Young office files; Miscellaneous Files, 1832-1878; Family information, circa 1853-1858, LDS Church History Library; WPA Biographical Sketches, Utah State Historical Society, quoted in Henry J. Wolfinger, “A Test of Faith: Jane Elizabeth James and the Origins of the Utah Black Community,” in Social Accommodation in Utah, ed. Clark S. Knowlton, American West Center Occasional Papers (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1975), 159n13.

[35] Jesse C. Little, “Tax Assessment Rolls” (Salt Lake City (Utah) Assessor, 1856), Series 4922, box 1, folder 1, Utah State Archives; Jesse C. Little, “Tax Assessment Rolls” (Salt Lake City (Utah) Assessor, 1858), Series 4922, box 1, folder 3, Utah State Archives.

[36] Elias Smith, Jane E. James v. Isaac James (Salt Lake County Probate Court March 1870).

[37] Wolfinger, “A Test of Faith,” 134 and 161n21.

[38] Joseph Robinson’s death is recorded in “Non-Population Census Schedules for Utah Territory and Vermont, 1870: Mortality” (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1870), 5, line 5, U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [database on-line]; Archive Collection: M1807; Archive Roll Number: 1; Census Year: 1870, Ancestry.com. The deaths of all the other members of James’s family mentioned here are found in “Record of Deaths in Salt Lake City” (Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, Management and Archives), entries 4656 (Mary Ann Robinson), 4660 (Henry Robinson), 5143 (Silas James), 6632 (Miriam Williams), and 6349 (Nettie Williams), Film 4,139,830, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[39] For evidence of Sylvester and Mary Ann’s marriage, see “Utah, Salt Lake County Death Records, 1849-1949” (Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, Management and Archives, n.d.), entry 2596, Microfilm 4,139,616, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[40] For evidence of Jane James’s transition to using the Perkins surname, see “Eighth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records (1867-1969),” LR 2525 14, LDS Church History Library. For Jane and Frank Perkins’ baptisms for the dead, see Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Endowment House, “Colored Brethren and Sisters, Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 3, 1875” (Genealogical Society of Utah, 1961), Microfilm 255498, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[41] The last record I have found of “Jane Perkins” is the entry for April 20, 1876, in Minute Book “A,” “Eighth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records (1867-1969).”

[42] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Endowment House, “Colored Brethren and Sisters, Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 3, 1875.”

[43] For James’s requests to be sealed to Joseph Smith as a child, see Jane E. James to President John Taylor, December 27, 1884; Jane E. James to Apostle Joseph F. Smith, Frbruary 7, 1890; Zina D. H. Young to Apostle Joseph F. Smith, January 15, 1894; and minutes of a meeting of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, January 2, 1902. All of these documents are transcribed in Wolfinger, “A Test of Faith,” 148–51.

[44] Jane E. James to President John Taylor, December 27, 1884, transcribed in Wolfinger, 148.

[45] James’s request to receive her endowment is recorded in Wilford Woodruff’s journal, entry of October 16, 1894; Minutes of a meeting of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, August 22, 1895; Minutes of a meeting of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, January 2, 1902; and Jane E. James to President Joseph F. Smith, August 31, 1903. James’s request to be sealed in marriage to Q. Walker Lewis occurs in Jane E. James to Apostle Joseph F. Smith, February 7, 1890. All of these sources are transcribed in Wolfinger, 149–51.

[46] James’s request for endowments for her dead relatives occurs in Jane E. James to Apostle Joseph F. Smith, February 7, 1890. Her request for adoption sealings for Isaac James and Isaac Manning is found in Zina D. H. Young to Apostle Joseph F. Smith, January 15, 1894. Both of these letters are transcribed in Wolfinger, 149–50.

[47] Jane E. James to President John Taylor, December 27, 1884, transcribed in Wolfinger, 148.

[48] Smith, “1889 Patriarchal Blessing.”

[49] “Utah, Salt Lake County Death Records, 1849-1949,” entry 1633.

[50] “Death of Issac [sic] James,” Deseret Evening News, November 28, 1891.

[51] Utah Gazetteer, 1892-93 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Stenhouse and Co., 1892), 489.

[52] Roger D. Launius, Invisible Saints: A History of Black Americans in the Reorganized Church (Independence, Mo.: Herald Pub. House, 1988), 127; Eighth Ward, Liberty Stake, “Eighth Ward General Minutes,” LR 2525 11, LDS Church History Library.

[53] “Some Living Pioneers,” Salt Lake Herald, July 6, 1897; “First Negroes to Join Mormon Church,” Salt Lake Herald, October 2, 1899; “Funeral of Isaac Manning,”Deseret Evening News, April 17, 1911; Kate B. Carter, The Story of the Negro Pioneer (Salt Lake City, Utah: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1965), 9.

[54] For examples, see the following published minutes: Unsigned, “R.S. and Y.L. Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, November 1, 1885; Unsigned, “Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, December 1, 1889; Lydia D. Alder, “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1894; Lydia D. Alder, “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, December 1, 1893; Lydia D. Alder, “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, January 1, 1895; Zina Hyde, “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, February 1, 1896; A. T. Hyde, “Ladies Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, September 1, 1896; Alder, “Ladies’ Semi-Momthly [sic] Meeting”; Lydia D. Alder, “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1897; Hannah M. Wright, “Ladies Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, November 1, 1898; J. S. Woolley, “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, July 1, 1899; J. S. Woolley, “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” Woman’s Exponent, October 15, 1899.

[55] Alder, “Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting,” December 1, 1893.

[56] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Logan Temple, “Baptisms for the Dead, 1884-1943,” 320, Microfilm 0,177,847, LDS Family History Library.

[57] “Salt Lake Temple Records, Baptisms for the Dead, Book D, 1894-1895,” Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[58] The official record of this ceremony is Adoption Record, Book A, p. 26, LDS Church History Library. This source is restricted and therefore not available to most researches. I have examined photographs of this document. At least three other sources provide transcriptions of this record: David J. Buerger, “Confidential Research Files, 1950-1974,” Folder 5, 4, David J. Buerger Papers, Special Collections and Archives, Marriott Library, University of Utah; Devery S. Anderson, ed., The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History , Smith-Pettit Foundation Book (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2011), 97–98; and Connell, “Chronology Pertaining to Blacks and the LDS Church | Jane M. James Sealed as Eternal Servant to Joseph Smith | Event View,” accessed May 4, 2012, http://www.xtimeline.com/evt/view.aspx?id=66094. Unfortunately, each of these transcriptions differs from the other and from the original. Most differences are minor, but one is crucial: none of these transcriptions names Zina D. H. Young as the proxy for Jane James, which the original clearly does.

[59] Minutes of a meeting of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, January 2, 1902, transcribed in Wolfinger, “A Test of Faith,” 151.

[60] Enos Anderson, “United States Federal Census, Salt Lake City 14th Ward, Salt Lake County, Utah, Enumeration District 45” (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1880), Microfilm 1,255,337, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[61] “Utah, Salt Lake County Death Records, 1849-1949,” entry 3911.

[62] “Died,” Deseret Evening News, March 4, 1897.

[63] Missionary Society Methodist Episcopal Church, Seventy-Fifth Annual Report of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Year 1893 (New York, 1894), 22.

[64] “Death of Jane Manning James: Servant in Family of Prophet Joseph Smith at Nauvoo Passes Away Today,” Deseret Evening News, April 16, 1908; “‘Aunt Jane’ Laid to Rest,” Deseret Evening News, April 21, 1908.

Documents

Click the index tab in the viewer above to view all primary source documents available for this person.

Prev Next