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The Man Who Believed in Equality

Robert Freed, 1919-1974

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Robert E. Freed at Lagoon resort.

In short:

Robert Freed showed that an ordinary citizen who sees something wrong can work until it is changed. As the manager of the Lagoon resort during the 1940s and 50s, he hated the fact that the property owner would not let African-Americans inside the park. Bob joined the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He and his brothers worked to persuade the owner to change his mind and allow Black people to come into the park. Through all their work, the Freeds finally had the delight of being able to open Lagoon fully to all families to enjoy!

More of the story:

Another kind of pioneer!
When Robert Freed and his brothers took over Lagoon in 1947, leasing it from the original owners, they couldn’t have imagined that what happened next would make them Civil Rights pioneers in Utah. 

They certainly weren’t seeking such a title. Their parents had simply raised them to understand that all men and women are created equal. 

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The speedway ride at Lagoon in the 1950s.

How would you like to own Lagoon?
Lagoon was one of Utah’s oldest resorts. But during World War II it closed. After the war, Robert Freed and his brother leased Lagoon. With their new ideas and management, they made it profitable again. 

Fighting racism.
But the Freeds had one big problem. They didn’t believe in segregation or racism of any kind. Many places in all over the country banned or restricted African Americans, simply because of the color of their skin! And the Freeds knew that was wrong.

The town of Farmington and the owner of Lagoon didn’t see eye to eye with the Freeds yet.  City ordinances and lease contract requirements forced Bob and his brothers to keep African-Americans out of the park and the swimming pool. 

Because of their disgust with the policy of segregation that they were being forced to follow, the Freeds joined the NAACP and continued to wear down the owner of Lagoon. They also worked towards getting the city ordinances changed. 

Free to enter at last!
Eventually, Bob and his brothers succeeded, and they could open Lagoon to people of all color. When the brothers bought the Rainbow Gardens, a dance hall in Salt Lake City, they also welcomed people of all cultures and colors.

Because of his commitment to Civil Rights and his lifelong belief that all people are equal, Utah’s NAACP awarded him with its first honorary lifetime membership. 

And his legacy is…
The story of Lagoon and the Freeds teaches at least one thing: You don’t have to be part of a persecuted group to work toward ending that persecution.  If there are people in your life that you know face prejudice or inequality, you can still work with them and for them to help end it, just like Robert Freed did.