The summer 2009 Utah Historical Quarterly has a fascinating article on The Broad Ax, an African American newspaper in Salt Lake City, and its sharply opinionated Democratic editor, Julius Taylor.
The story below, based on a History Blazer article by Jeffrey D. Nichols, tells of the political and journalistic competition between Julius Taylor and William Taylor, another editor of another black newspaper--and how both papers spoke out for the rights of African Americans.
Although the 1890 census reported only 588 African Americans living in Utah—a figure that would almost double by 1910—Utah supported several black newspapers during that time.
The most prominent were the Broad Ax and the Utah Plain Dealer.
Julius F. Taylor, who moved to Utah from North Dakota, edited and published the Broad Ax, a weekly newspaper, from August 1895 until June 1899 (when he moved his family and newspaper to Chicago).
William W. Taylor (no relation) edited the Utah Plain Dealer for at least 12 years.
The two men carried on a political and journalistic rivalry. Julius Taylor was an ardent Democrat. That was unusual! Most African Americans favored the Republicans--Lincoln’s party. Besides, many Democrats openly advocated white supremacy.
But Julius argued that the Republicans had betrayed African Americans’ trust since Emancipation and that the Democratic Party offered them their best hope.
The Broad Ax announced that it was
"advocating the immortal principles of Jefferson and Jackson; it will stand for the HONEST SILVER dollar of our forefathers, to be coined free . . . we will also strive to aid and advance the cause of the working man. . . . This paper will also contend for the liberation of the minds of the colored people from political slavery . . . .
On the other side of the issues was Republican William Taylor. Besides editing the Utah Plain Dealer, William served as the city's deputy dog tax collector. He also actually ran for the state legislature in 1896 (he lost--but got a respectable number of votes).
Democrat Julius attacked Republican William from the Broad Ax's first issue; he called William's paper the Double Dealer and pronounced him unqualified for office and not a true representative of the "colored people."
Since it seems that only one issue of the Plain Dealer has survived (in the LDS Church Archives), we don’t know what William thought of Julius and these attacks.
Although William lost his race for the state senate, he remained prominent in the African-American community, publishing his newspaper and serving as president of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, a black fraternal organization.
After he died, William's widow, Lizzie, continued to publish the Plain Dealer for a short while.
Julius Taylor's active and outspoken editorial voice struck at others as well. He apparently had a running feud with Salt Lake Tribune editor C. C. Goodwin, calling him, among other things, a "pale-faced two-legged dung-hill rooster" who was the editor of a "well-known negro-hating sheet."
Julius tirelessly advocated equality and justice. He attacked the popular "cake walks" and "coon songs," which degraded African Americans. He frequently expressed his disgust over the treatment of blacks in Salt Lake City and in the nation as a whole.
Unlikely as it may seem, the two Taylors had other black rivals in the newspaper business: four other African American newspapers appeared between 1890 and 1910.
The two Taylors represent the small but vibrant black community in Salt Lake City. Although they made little headway in achieving better treatment for African Americans (nor in their quest for their own offices), they insisted upon full participation in public life.
For an fascinating look at the Broad Ax and how Taylor’s voice shaped Utah—and how he became much more outspoken after he moved to Chicago, see Utah Historical Quarterly, Summer 2009.