Interviews with African Americans in Utah, 1982-1988

Overview of the Collection

University of Utah. Oral History Institute
Interviews with African Americans in Utah
1982-1988 (inclusive)
3 linear feet, (7 boxes)
Collection Number
MS 0453
Interviews with African Americans in Utah consist of transcripts detailing events recalled by the interviewees spanning the time period from 1889 to 1988. Topics include family life, work, religion, discrimination, civil rights experiences, and relations with the white, and in particular the Latter Day Saints establishment in Utah. Most interviews were conducted by Leslie G. Kelen of the Oral History Institute. Click here to view the digitized items from the collection.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT

Telephone: 8015818863
Access Restrictions

Twenty-four hour advanced notice encouraged. Materials must be used on-site. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Utah Endowment for the Humanities funded the Oral History Institute of Salt Lake City to conduct interviews with members of different ethnic minorities and racial groups. The people chosen to be interviewed were from Utah's African Americans, Greek, Jewish, Japanese, Mexican, Hispanic, Chinese, Ute, and Italian communities; and were in most cases fifty—five years of age or older. The goal of the project was to try to determine if, how, or to what extent each minority culture had been impacted by the larger Utah culture.

This particular series of interviews with African Americans took place from 1982 to 1988. Events recalled by the interviewees span the time period from 1889 to 1988. The series is a follow—up to a series that was done in the early 1970s, but the topics covered are not the same. Included in this collection are the transcriptions of the interviews conducted 1982 to 1988, with some corresponding cassette tapes and photographs found in the Multimedia Division of Special Collections. Materials were transferred to the Marriott Library from the Oral History Institute in 1985 and 1988.

Of particular interest are the interviews done by Pastor France Davis and Reverend Theodore P. Fields, regarding the 1980 killing of two young Black men, and the interview by Woody Wright which provides insight into the activities taking place in Ogden, Utah, on the notorious 25th Street.

Common themes within the interviews are family life, work, religion, discrimination, civil rights experiences, and relations with the White, and in particular the Latter Day Saints establishment in Utah.

The Oral History Institute of Salt Lake City created a photodocumentary exhibit from this project, titled "Working Together: A Utah Portfolio." The photographs in the exhibit were selected to dramatize the way members of each ethnic and minority community in Utah lived, worked, and worshipped, from 1920 to 1985. These photographs are housed in the Photo Archives at the J. Willard Marriott Library. Several of the people interviewed for this collection were photographed for the project, and an appendix of the photographs can be found at the end of this register.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The library does not claim to control copyright for all materials in the collection. An individual depicted in a reproduction has privacy rights as outlined in Title 45 CFR, part 46 (Protection of Human Subjects). For further information, please review the J. Willard Marriott Library's Use Agreement and Reproduction Request forms.

Preferred Citation

Collection Name, Collection Number, Box Number, Folder Number. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Purchased from the Oral History Institute.

Processing Note

Processed by Nancy V. Young and Jennifer Breaden in 1990.

Addemdum processed by Julia Huddleston in 2018.

Click here to read a statement on harmful language in library records.

Separated Materials

Audio cassette tapes transferred to the Multimedia Division of Special Collections (A0079 and A0326).

Photographs of many of the interviewees transferred to the Multimedia Division of Special Collections (P0160).

Related Materials

This collection forms part of the ethnic relations in Utah oral history project.

See also the African American oral history project (ACCN 2840) located in the Manuscripts Division of Special Collections.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Transcriptions of Interviews, Adams—DeBiesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
News clipping
A February 1985 article discussing the interviews conducted by the Oral History Institute.
1 2
Oral history listing
Listing of the interviews from the Oral History Institute.
1 3
Annie Adams, 1903-1983
Mrs. Adams recalls her early life, the success of her children, the operation of her beauty parlor, and her activity in the Baptist church.
1 4
Lucille Bankhead, 1902-
Mrs. Bankhead, a member of a Utah pioneer family, speaks about her affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and civil rights. Her son, Thomas Bankhead, discusses being Black in Utah.
1 5
1 6
1 7
Bernice Benns, 1932-
Mrs. Benns discusses her religion, family, discrimination, and civil rights.
1 8
Bernice Benns, 1932- (continuation)
1 9
Bernice Benns, 1932- (continuation)
1 10
Clarence Beridon, 1905-
Mrs. Beridon recalls her early life in the South, railroading, relationships with Latter Day Saints, and discrimination.
1 11
1 12
1 13
1 14
Howard Browne, 1911-
Mr. Browne speaks about his early life in Carbon County, Utah; mining; a Castlegate lynching; railroading; his move to Salt Lake City; unionism, and civil rights.
1 15
1 16
1 17
1 18
France Davis, 1950-
Pastor Davis discusses his early life in rural Georgia, the southern civil rights protests, his religion studies, working as a pastor in Salt Lake City, the attitudes of Salt Lake City Blacks toward each other, and the White establishment.
1 19
1 20
1 21
1 22
1 23
1 24
1 25
1 26
Ella DeBies, 1889-
Mrs. DeBies remembers her early life, marriage, children, religious beliefs, and discrimination.

Transcriptions of Interviews, Elkins-SmithReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
2 1
Albert Elkins, 1913-
Mr. Elkins discusses his early life in Salt Lake City, employment, discrimination experienced away from Salt Lake, and his perception of the changes in his community upon his return.
2 2
2 3
Theodore P. Fields, 1940-
Reverend Fields recalls his early life in Philadelphia, the military, discrimination, civil rights activities, his ministry, the 1980 shooting of his son, Ted, by Joseph Paul Franklin, and the work of the Salt Lake City police in the case.
2 4
2 5
2 6
Albert Fritz, ca. 1915-
Mr. Fritz remembers his early life in Michigan, work in Salt Lake City, discrimination, civil rights activities, work with the NAACP, and unionism.
2 7
2 8
2 9
Ruby Nathaniel, 1907-
Mrs. Nathaniel recalls her childhood in Salt Lake City, interracial parentage, employment, relationships with Whites, civil rights, and her church affiliation.
2 10
Velma Oliver, 1908-
Mrs. Oliver, who was born in Georgia, remembers her early life, move to Salt Lake City, children, work with the NAACP, discrimination, and church involvement.
2 11
2 12
2 13
William Price, 1929-
Mr. Price remembers his early schooling in Salt Lake City, employment, boxing career, discrimination, and the civil rights movement.
2 14
2 15
Mary Louise Robertson, 1932-
Mrs. Robertson discusses her early life in Salt Lake City, civil rights, employment for Blacks, attitudes toward Latter Day Saints, and attitudes of the established Black community toward new Black residents.
2 16
Mary Smith, 1906-
Mrs. Smith recalls her childhood in Salt Lake, interracial parentage, her sister, Minyon Richards, work as a maid in a local house of prostitution, work at Z.C.M.I. where she eventually headed a department, and problems in her marriage.
2 17

Transcriptions of Interviews, Steward-WrightReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
3 1
3 2
3 3
3 4
3 5
Nelson Styles, 1921-
Mr. Styles, well-known as the greeter at the Roof Restaurant in the Hotel Utah, recalls his early life in Georgia, being stationed at Camp Kearns in the Salt Lake Valley during World War Two, his decision to remain in Utah following the war, and his long career in food services at the Hotel Utah.
3 6
3 7
Nathaniel 'Woody' Wright, 1916-
Mr. Wright recalls an early accident at age seven that led to his legs being amputated, a somewhat affluent lifestyle in Connecticut, his employment at Hill Field during World War Two, his long association with the clubs and hotels on Ogden's 25th Street, his marriage, and his problems with alcohol.
3 8
3 9
3 10

Transcriptions of Interviews, Bocage-GreenReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
4 1
Wilfred Bocage, 1941-
Mr. Bocage, vice-president of the NAACP at the time of the interview, recalls his childhood in New Orleans, his father's musical career, his work as a medic in the Navy, discrimination in industry, and segregation in Utah.
4 2
Marguerite Browne, 1912-
Mrs. Browne discusses her childhood on a farm in Kansas, living in Utah during the depression, segregation and discrimination in the city, her work at the City and County Building and with Model Cities.
4 3
Danny Burnett, 1928-
Mr. Burnett recalls his early years in Garfield, Utah; his work at Kennecott in Nevada; his work at Hercules; the NAACP; and picketing to stop discrimination.
4 4
Mary Campbell, 1942-
Mrs. Campbell, who moved from Mississippi to Salt Lake City as a youth, discusses prejudice in Salt Lake City, discrimination against Black women as compared to White women or Black men, and her work for the Methodist church and the Elks club.
4 5
George Dorsey, 1897-
Mr. Dorsey discusses his early years in Leavenworth, Kansas; his move to Fort Duchesne; segregation in Utah; singing in a local quartet; and his involvement in the Shriners.
4 6
Albert Fritz, 1915-
Mr. Fritz discusses his involvement with Trinity Methodist Church, his work at the Hotel Utah, the NAACP presidents and vice-presidents, civil rights, the march on Washington, the Steel Workers Union, mining strikes, boxing, and World War II.
4 7
Doris Steward Fry, 1906-
Mrs. Fry, who moved from Colorado to Utah, discusses prejudices in Utah, her membership in Calvary Baptist Church, activities at Liberty Park, the formation of the NAACP in Salt Lake City, Pullman Porters, and unionization.
4 8
James Gillespie, 1921-
Mr. Gillespie discusses growing up in Mississippi, segregation in the Army Air Corps at Hill Air Force Base, his work as president of the NAACP, and the shooting of a Black man by a police officer.
4 9
Victor Gordon, 1939-
Mr. Gordon discusses growing up in Salt Lake City, the Black Star Shipping Line, Latter Day Saints, the Black neighborhoods of Ogden, his involvement as a Seventh-Day Adventist, his background in law and problems with the bar exam, and the Black Brothers Organizational Society.
4 10
4 11
Jacob Green, 1936-
Mr. Green recalls segregation and discrimination in Salt Lake City, concerts by Black performers, civil rights, Latter Day Saint theology, and his career as a police officer.
4 12

Transcriptions of Interviews, Henry-LeeReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
5 1
Alberta Henry, 1920-
Mrs. Henry recalls her childhood in Louisiana and Kansas, her move to Salt Lake City in 1949, the NAACP, the Utah and Idaho Baptist Association, and Model Cities.
5 2
5 3
Ira Horton, 1924-
Mr. Horton recalls his childhood in Alabama, his move to Hill Air Force Base in 1943, discrimination in Utah, and segregation in the workplace.
5 4
Fantley Jones, 1904-
Mr. Jones recalls working on the railroad from Texas to Oklahoma, discrimination, and life in Ogden.
5 5
Marcella Kelly, 1933-
Mrs. Kelly discusses education in Salt Lake City, Washington, and San Francisco, looking for work, being a nurse's aid at Holy Cross and St. Mark's Hospitals, her marriages, the NAACP, Blacks Unlimited, the Black Panthers, Masons, Elks, and life on 25th Street in Ogden.
5 6
5 7
Florence Lawrence, 1922-
Mrs. Lawrence recalls living in Murray, Utah, activities at Liberty Park, the W.P.A., dating, slavery songs of her ancestors, segregation on Navy bases in California and Utah, and religion.
5 8
5 9
James Lee, 1947-
Mr. Lee discusses discrimination in the Ogden schools, riots in Los Angeles, prison life, the Army, and the Rastafarian religion.

Transcriptions of Interviews, Mattson-SingletonReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
6 1
AnnaBell Mattson, 1922-
Mrs. Mattson discusses life in Ogden in the 1940s and 1950s, Hill Air Force Base, the Porters and Waiters Club, LaVogue Club, entertainers at the Terrace Room and the Old Mill, Anna Bell's Restaurant, and alcoholism.
6 2
6 3
Joe McQueen, 1919-
Mr. McQueen talks about growing up in Dallas and Oklahoma, segregation in Utah, and jazz.
6 4
Joan Nabors, 1936-
Mrs. Nabors discusses segregation in Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Alabama, Ohio, Illinois, and Utah; the NAACP; Urban League; and Tuskegee.
6 5
Ernest Nixon, 1922-
Mr. Nixon discusses growing up in Arkansas, the Ku Klux Klan, segregation, the army, Hill Air Force Base, the Rio Grande Railroad, Latter Day Saints, Ogden, the NAACP, and civil rights.
6 6
Sammy Perkins, 1911-
Mr. Perkins, who came to Salt Lake City from Memphis, discusses his experiences with the L.D.S. church.
6 7
William Price
Mr. Price discusses boxing, and in particular, Paul Perkins. He discusses living in Utah communities among the Latter Day Saints
6 8
Henry and Eva Sexton, 1925- and 1921-
Mr. and Mrs. Sexton discuss the NAACP, the Progressive Party, the American Legion, picketing theatres and bowling alleys, and raising their foster children.
6 9
6 10
6 11
Oscar Singleton, 1913-
Mr. Singleton discusses his move from South Carolina to Utah and life as a Pullman Porter.

Transcriptions of Interviews, West-WilliamsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
7 1
Alberta West, 1902-
Mrs. West discusses segregation in Utah and Hill Air Force Base in the 1940s and 1950s and the activities of the LaVogue club.
7 2
John Williams, 1944-
Mr. Williams recalls activities with the Calvary Baptist Church, scouting, school, and Latter Day Saints. He also discusses the lynching of Emmett Till, civil rights, politics, and the Masons.
7 3
7 4
7 5
Terry Lee Williams, 1950-
Senator Williams recalls being driven from his home in Burley, Idaho; moving to Salt Lake City where he got involved with scouting; the A.M.E. church; his involvement in politics; and his work on the bill to commemorate Martin Luther King Day.
7 6
Frances Leggroan Fleming
Mrs. Fleming recalls her husband, Monroe Hamilton Fleming, her life in Salt Lake City, her religious experiences as a Black woman in the LDS Church, experiences with persistant racism at school and church, her husband's conversion to the LDS Church, working at the Newhouse Hotel, courtship, and farming near Highland Drive.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • African American Latter Day Saints--Utah--Interviews
  • African American churches--Utah--Sources
  • African American coal miners--Utah--Interviews
  • African American pioneers--Utah--Interviews
  • African Americans--Civil Rights--Utah--Interviews
  • African Americans--Race identity--Utah--Interviews
  • African Americans--Utah--Interviews
  • African Americans--Utah--Social conditions--Interviews
  • Armed Forces--African Americans--Sources
  • Latter Day Saint pioneers--Utah--Interviews
  • Lynching--Utah--Sources
  • Race discrimination--Utah--Sources
  • Segregation--Utah--Sources

Personal Names

  • Davis, France--Interviews
  • Kelen, Leslie G.--Interviewer

Corporate Names

  • University of Utah. Oral History Institute--Interviewer

Geographical Names

  • Utah--Ethnic relations

Form or Genre Terms

  • Interviews
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Oral histories
  • Oral histories