Originally situated on the shores of the Great Salt Lake and later relocating to Farmington, UT, Lagoon was (and still is) a constantly evolving business. It began as Lake Park, offering a mule-drawn carousel, roller skating, and bowling, and today is a large amusement park with record-breaking multi-million-dollar steel roller coasters and over a million visitors every year. While Lagoon has evolved economically, perhaps even more significant is its demonstration of social progress. Lagoon set the stage when it officially desegregated in the 1940s, and many other public venues followed.
Unlike some of the states where the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century was intensely focused, Utah never had Jim Crow laws or other legislation explicitly forcing white and black people to stay separated. However, racial minorities in Utah were victim to de facto segregation (which was often due indirectly to legislation, whether intentional or not). Though Utah wasn’t on the forefront of national civil rights news, the issues were pertinent and pressing in Utah cities as well. Between 1940 and 1950, the Black population in Utah more than doubled, and tensions between the white majority and marginalized minorities continued to rise.
Without official segregation laws and few cities with more than one school, it was up to business owners to change the public’s mind about who was allowed where. After World War II, some businesses began to desegregate. One of the first was Lagoon. Lagoon had been closed during the war, and was reopened and revamped in 1946-1947. Then, Robert E. Freed, one of the owners, made the attractions at Lagoon, as well as his Rainbow Rendezvous Ballroom in Salt Lake City, available to all races. After this bold move, it didn’t take long for other businesses and city pools to open their doors to minorities as well.
Appropriately-named Robert Freed made a pivotal move when he integrated his park in the 1940s, and Utah has been working for racial equality ever since.