‘Our story matters’: Mural depicting 4 prominent Utah black women unveiled

Ava Isom and Jackie Thompson pose for photos during an unveiling ceremony for a new mural featuring four black women at Richmond Park in Salt Lake City on Monday. Isom, 13, is dressed as Elnora Dudley, who was crowned queen at the 1898 Emancipation Day celebration. Thompson portrays Mignon Richmond, the first black woman to graduate from the University of Utah. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Four prominent black women separated by time will be reunited in a neighborhood where each lived and worked.

A new mural featuring Jane Manning James, Elizabeth Taylor, Elnora Dudley and Mignon Barker Richmond was unveiled at Richmond Park, 444 E. 600 South in Salt Lake City on Monday. The mural will be installed in the park’s community garden upon completion. The unveiling of the mural was one of the final events of Utah’s June 19 celebrations.

The mural – which is named after Richmond Park – represents a recognition of the contributions of black women to Utah.

“It’s always good to especially recognize our black women in the community. We all know representation is important,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City. “We stand on a lot of shoulders of black women here in this state who have done a lot. … You may never know their names, but they are working in silence to help create opportunity and build this state.”

The commissioning and installation of the mural is a collaboration and partnership between Better Days, Sema Hadithi African American Heritage and Culture Foundation, Wasatch Community Gardens, the Utah Division of State History, Salt Lake City Arts Council and the Utah Division of Arts & Museums.

The women are presented in chronological order and depicted with different hats to represent the roles they held in their communities.

Jane Manning James

Jane Manning James was known to her friends as Aunt Jane. She was born in 1822 to a free family in Connecticut where she later became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Following his family’s conversion, they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Because of his family’s race, they traveled 800 miles to Illinois after being denied passage on a boat.

When James arrived in Nauvoo, she developed a close friendship with Emma Smith, wife of Latter-day Saint Prophet Joseph Smith, while working in their home. James then fled Nauvoo and traveled to the Salt Lake Valley with other Mormon pioneers where she purchased a home near the Salt Lake Temple grounds.

James was one of the first documented black women to enter Utah and became an equal rights advocate in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was an active member of Relief Society and her community.

In the mural, James is depicted dressed in beautiful clothes depicting passages from her diary that express her appreciation for beautiful clothes. She is dressed in a church bonnet and a brooch, clothes that can be found in the few historical photos of her.

“These three pieces are statements about how important she is to her, how she looks and how honored she is. I thought it was fitting that she was dressed the way she was,” Alice Faulkner Burch said. , director of Sema Hadithi.

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor was 17 when she resided in Utah around 1891 where she married her husband, William Wesley Taylor. The couple launched a newspaper for the territory’s black community. Taylor continued to run the newspaper after her husband’s death, using it as an advocacy and educational tool. She called on the Salt Lake City Council to expand equality and pass an ordinance ending segregation in places of business.

Outside of her advocacy, Taylor belonged to a literary society and led children’s groups. She was also an active member of her church.

Elnora Dudley

Elnora Dudley traveled to Utah with her parents when she was 8 years old around 1892. She was crowned queen of the Salt Lake City Emancipation Day celebration in 1898 when she was 15 years old , this is how his portrait in the mural is depicted.

Dudley never married but was continuously involved in the surrounding community. She was able to buy her house, which she continued to own as a single black woman during the Great Depression until her death in 1956.

Her crown features a ruby ​​in the portrait despite the actual crown containing a pearl. The ruby ​​is a reference to Proverbs 31:10, which states that the value of a virtuous woman is greater than rubies.

Burch said she wanted the statement to remind girls and all women of their worth.

Cute Barker Richmond

Mignon Barker Richmond was born in Salt Lake City in 1897 to William Barker and Mary Alice Reagan Barker. She became the first black woman to graduate from college in Utah and was a fierce community leader and civil rights activist.

Some of her services include: YWCA Food Services Director, Women’s Job Corps, Medicare Alert Project Chair, Salt Lake Chapter of the NAACP, and Utah Community Service Council.

The whole fresco

Although each portrait is separate, each woman is united in the background.

“The mountains behind them represent Utah and the arduous journey, the touch of snow that will be on top of each mountain symbolizes the harsh climates – politically and socially – that each woman has worked and lived in Utah. above the mountains are the rising sun, symbolizing that the sun still has not set on the work they have done and that even now in the year 2022,” Burch explained.

The women are connected to a banner below them, symbolizing the work that each of them shares “through the different decades and joining them as black American women”.

The mural was unveiled by the women’s descendants, community leaders and children. The ceremony also featured music by Calvary Baptist Church, which joined the crowd in signing a variety of songs.

“Black American women are a part of Utah history and have done important work and made some very important accomplishments for all of us,” Burch said. “May this mural help continue to work using the will of these women to unite the people of Utah through truth.”


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Ashley Fredde covers social services, minority communities and women’s issues for KSL.com. She also enjoys reporting on arts, culture and entertainment news. She graduated from the University of Arizona.

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