The real heroes of the story are women such as Jane Elizabeth Manning James, a free black woman who was baptized into the LDS Church in the early 1840s and then traveled with a small group of black converts from Connecticut to Illinois in winter, the last 800 miles on foot. “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,” James recounted in a brief autobiography several decades later. James walked to Utah with the Mormon pioneers in 1847 and remained a devoted member of the Church until her death in 1908, outliving its first five prophets. Upon her death Church leaders recognized James as a pillar of faithfulness—after having denied her access to Mormonism’s most sacred temple rituals by virtue of her race.
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