Monday, January 19, 2009

SL-Trib: Profiles of Four Beehive State Civil Rights Trailblazers

1.19.09 Martin Luther King Holiday Special

Thanks to a tip from another gentle reader, we're pleased to spotlight an article appearing in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, published in connection with today's Martin Luther King Holiday. The article provides brief profiles of four "trailblazers who helped pioneer the civil-rights path in the Beehive State," two of whom we can claim as Emerald City's own. Here's the lede:
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and Barack Obama, with his historic inauguration, is helping to fulfill it. But so, too, did African-Americans in Utah.
Today, we feature four of those barrier breakers, brave souls who blurred the color line and advanced civil rights in the Beehive State.
Get to know Utah's first black legislator, who protested by lying down on city streets and inside the Capitol; the state's first black judge, who rose from dishing out assists as a University of Utah basketball star to handing out justice as a 3rd District jurist; an NAACP icon, who became a tireless children's and education advocate; and, finally, the "Queen of 25th Street," an Ogden jazz-club owner who defied the era by allowing black customers.
Read the full article here:
Utahns pave way for civil rights, see long road ahead
While not the most intellectually or historically provocative MLK Day article we've stumbled upon on the web this morning, or any other MLK Day morning, we enjoyed reading the four brief vignettes and thus commend this article to our gentle readers. The article has a certain charm to it, we think... not too light, and not too heavy... neither frivolous nor ponderous. A short reprieve from our usual red meat diet, perhaps? And frankly we can never read enough about Ogden Legends Rev. Harris and Ms. Wheatley.

We invite our readers to chime in with their own impressions, anecdotes and comments, of course.

For lack of a better label, we'll subtitle this article our Martin Luthor King Day Special.

6 comments:

althepal said...

Reading some of the reader comments under the Trib article, I'll observe that the second clause in the headline ("see long road ahead") was obviously well chosen.

The civil rights movement in lily-white Utah plaainly has a long way to go.

ozboy said...

Rudi

The Porters and Waiters club used to be a favorite after hours joint for the Ogden bar hoppers of the late fifties and early sixties. They were the first place in all of Utah that served Mexican food, although it was not much like what is so ubiquitous these days.

After a hard night of partying and drinking in such hot spots as the "Port Hole" (the bar at the Holiday Inn on 33rd and Washington), or the Washiki, or the Flare out in Riverdale, we would slide down for a walk on the wild side at the Porters and Waiters for a middle of the night snack. (Unless we would get lucky that is) It was considered pretty daring in those days for us pale faces, as the joint had a huge reputation for danger and intrigue. There had been many people killed there over the years, or so the legends said. In any event it was dark and mysterious both with the lighting and the clientele.

Anna Belle ran it in those days. She had married the original owner who was way older than she was. During his ownership, going way back into the 30's I believe, it was strictly a black club, as was the entire south side of 25th between Wall and Lincoln. The club and that part of the street had a serious bad reputation in the white sector. The street was strictly segregated up until Anna Bell took over and made whites welcome.

Anna Belle was a real social pioneer in Ogden and did more for racial harmony than any one else in Ogden's history. She later moved to SLC and went to work for the State Government because of her abilities to cross racial lines - which were very clearly defined in Utah in that era. She also opened another club in the SLC Hilton Hotel on 5th South called "Anna Belle's" although it never had the notoriety or client base that the Porters and Waiters did.

The Reverent Harris on the other hand was more of a divisive figure in Ogden. He was a lightning rod for racial tension, but he did accomplish a whole lot in the civil rights movement by his in your face protests like lying down in the middle of 25th and Washington and blocking traffic in protest. He also wrote a book, the title of which I can't remember now. It seems like it might have been something like "Look Within" Somewhere along in the 80's I bought several copies and gave them to people I thought might benefit from a look at the "other side". Recipients included my Mother and Bill Glasmann. So Bill, if your reading this, what's the name of that book? It was actually pretty strange, but a fun read. I would recommend it to any one interested in that period of racial relations in Ogden. It seems that it also had the Reverend Harris' world famous BBQ recipe in it.

So my hat is off to, and I salute two great Ogden figures of the past that I had the good fortune to cross paths with, if ever so obliquely.

Bill C. said...

Good ol' Rev. Harris. This article brought back memories of afternoons at the Falstaff and National Tavern swilling buds and consuming the good reverends take out ribs from his Faith Market when he was located on 25th st.

Monotreme said...

Ozboy:

Is this it?

http://tinyurl.com/8a5knm

Not close to the title you suggest, but it's the only one I found by Rev. Robert Lee Harris.

He died in 2005; the S-E obituary is available online as well.

Curmudgeon said...

Oz:

Thanks for the history, Oz. Much in it I didn't know.

ET said...

The comment section of this article in SLC TRIB on Utah Civil Rights is MUCH BETTER than this article. Maybe because so many of the posters are gay or are sensitive to gay rights:
Check it out:
http://www.tribtowns.com/comments/read_comments.asp?ref=11488045&sec=News

So many of their points are well written. Need I say more.

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