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Very little is known of Jane James previous to her arriving to Nauvoo, Illinois to be with the church after her conversion. She was born a free woman in this Connecticut town and followed the church all the way to the Salt Lake Valley, being the first African-American to enter the valley and one of the first African-Americans to join the LDS church.

  • undated photo of Jane Manning James
  • another undated photo of Jane Manning James. She is with her husband Isaac. May have been taken a short time before his death in 1891.
  • Back of monument to Jane Manning James in Salt Lake Cemetery
  • Front of monument to Jane Manning James in Salt Lake.
(Jane James published a memoir before her death in 1908)
What is known about Jane Elizabeth Manning James states that she was born in Wilton, CT, born free and not a slave, September 22, 1822. She joined the LDS church in 1839, married another black convert to the church, Isaac James and headed to Nauvoo, Illinois to be with the church. Once her and her family and a few others, also converts, arrived to Buffalo, NY, they were denied steamboat passage. Undaunted, they set forth to walk to Nauvoo, completing a 800 mile trip on foot. Before his murder, June 27, 1844, along with his brother Hyrum, Joseph Smith had already ordained at least three African-Americans into the priesthood and sent them on missions before he, as members of the LDS church believe, received revelation to hold off on ordaining more African-Americans until commanded of God to begin again, as well as holding off on performing "saving ordinances" for African-Americans, again, until commanded to do so. Despite this, Jane and the rest stayed with the church. 

Jane and her family joined the church as it headed west under the tutelage of Brigham Young. The James stayed with the church even after the 'ban', which made it official church practice to not ordain or perform saving ordinances for African-Americans, though they were not denied entry into the church. This ban lasted until 1978, when after over 100 years and all the Prophet-Presidents of the LDS church prayed for the ban to removed by command of God to begin again ordaining worthy males of all races into the priesthood and perform saving ordinances for them, under the direction of Spencer W. Kimball. 

While the ban was in place, Jane gave birth to a daughter, the first African-American baby born in what is now Utah and lost her husband in 1891. Throughout the rest of her life she petitioned for temple sealings to be performed for her and her husband, but was denied. These would not be preformed until 1978. All though not able to live to see the desires of her heart and her family, she stayed with the church and stayed in Utah until her death on April 16, 1908. In 1998, a monument was dedicated to Jane near her gravesite. In 2005, a documentary on her life and legacy aired PBS and at the annual conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research of the Mormon Church (FAIR Mormon) in Utah. Documentary cannot at this time be found. 
James, Jane E. Manning. Transcribed by Elizabeth J. D. Roundy. "My Life Story". Wilford Woodruff Papers (Salt Lake City, Utah: Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Mueller, Max (Winter–Spring 2011). "Playing Jane: The history of a pioneer black Mormon woman is alive today". Harvard Divinity School Bulletin 39 (1 & 2). Newell, Linda King; Avery, Valeen Tippetts (August 1979). "Jane Manning James: Black Saint, 1847 Pioneer". Ensign (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church). Smith, Becky Cardon (2005-04-15). "Remembering Jane Manning James". Meridian Magazine. 2010-02-06.