During Black History Month, looking at how Lagoon desegregated

Feb 10, 2023, 6:00 PM
Black History Month is a good time to learn about the Lagoon amusement park, and how it was one of ...
Julianne Barney rides the Paratrooper with her grandfather, Jerald Hatch, at Lagoon in Farmington on Monday, June 15, 2020. During Black History Month, Lagoon is remembered as one of the first amusement parks in America to desegregate in the 1960s. (Steve Griffin/Deseret News)
(Steve Griffin/Deseret News)

FARMINGTON, Utah — The Lagoon amusement park has a story to tell during Black History Month. Namely that it was one of the first amusement parks in the nation to desegregate in the 1960s. 

Twenty years earlier in the 1940s, the park only allowed Black people access to the Ferris wheel and bumper cars, but not the more popular Patio Gardens or swimming pool. 

After its closure due to World War II, the park re-opened with civil-rights activist Robert E. Freed as its main manager. He and his brothers hated Lagoon’s discriminatory policies, so they continually fought to make Lagoon inclusive.

“Lagoon was for everyone, and because of local ordinances and just that the Freed’s didn’t own the park, there were certain attractions that were segregated. The swimming pool being one, and the dance hall being another. And the Freeds absolutely hated it,” said Lagoon spokesperson Adam Leishman about the park’s role in Black history. 

The ordinances were so strict that even when famous Black entertainers like Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald came to perform at Lagoon’s Patio Gardens, Black visitors weren’t allowed to enter the center to watch. 

Then, in 1965, the Freeds won their case and Lagoon became one of the nation’s first amusement parks to open their gates to citizens of all races. 

Five years later in 1970, Robert E. Freed became the first Utahn to win the lifetime achievement award from the NAACP. 

Now, the park has grown to become the home of ten large roller coasters, 38 carnival games, a large waterpark, the historical Pioneer Village, and two original shows. 

Other reading:



We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Race, Religion + Social Justice

An open house for the Richmond Virginia Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints w...
Mark Jones

Open house for Richmond Virginia Temple begins this week

The Richmond Virginia Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have an open house beginning this week that will run through April 15.
1 day ago
Authorities arrest members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho pride event S...
Peter Johnston

Recent study ranks Utah among top ten for instances of white supremacist propaganda

A recent study ranks Utah seventh for instances of white supremacist propaganda. One possible reason, white supremacists recruit in the state.
4 days ago
a choir sings, a new religious study explored likeability of different faiths...
Aubri Wuthrich

Pew Research Center study reveals how Americans feel about different religions

The study asked about seven different religious groups in the United States. It specifically asked if the religion was favorable or unfavorable.
4 days ago
vivint center with all-start weekend design is shown, black Utah businesses got good traffic over a...
Adam Small

Black-owned businesses look to further their reach following All-Star weekend

Black businesses in Utah will be featured every weekend in April. The goal is to get people familiar with their community and local businesses.
4 days ago
great salt lake is pictured...
Kate Davis and Lindsay Aerts

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donates water shares to help Great Salt Lake

Gov. Spencer Cox expressed his gratitude to the church for the donation, saying that the decision makes the lake's future more secure.
6 days ago
A screenshot of an artist's rendering of the Moses Lake Temple. The open house for the Moses Lake T...
Mark Jones

Church announces open house dates for Moses Lake Washington Temple

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday the open house dates for the Moses Lake Washington Temple will be Aug. 4-19 with the exception of Sundays.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...
BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.
Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a new winter activity? Try skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five common causes of Cervical Cancer – and what you can do to lower your risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get ready for fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 easy Christmas dinner ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
During Black History Month, looking at how Lagoon desegregated