The Autobiography and Interview of Jane Elizabeth Manning James
Journal of Africana Religions
University Park, PA
Penn State University Press
Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS, or Mormon, Church) is generally omitted from African American religious history, people of African descent had always been able to join the church and, in small numbers, they did. The texts reprinted here document the life of one early black Mormon, Jane Elizabeth Manning James, a free black woman from Connecticut who converted to Mormonism in the early 1840s. Before she died, in Salt Lake City in 1908, Jane dictated an autobiography. She also gave an interview in 1905 concerning her memories of Joseph Smith, for whom she had worked as a servant in Illinois. These documents give us a new appreciation of the variety of religious options available to black people in the antebellum Northern United States and Canada during and after the second Great Awakening, and a new angle of vision on the politics of religious affiliation.