For four years Julius Taylor operated his black newspaper, The Broad Ax, for African Americans living in Utah. Taylor was not only a racial minority in Utah, he was also non-religious and a democrat.
In the 1890s there were about six hundred African Americans living in Utah. Six Black newspapers operated in the twenty years between 1890 and 1910. One of the most interesting was the “Broad Ax,” operated by Julius F. Taylor, the son of slaves. Taylor was a Utah minority in many ways: he was Black, non-religious, and he was a Democrat—this last trait was unusual both for Utah and for African-Americans, who mostly aligned with the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln.
Taylor had lived in a variety of places before coming to Utah—Virginia; Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota; and Chicago. It was from Chicago that he came in 1895, seeking an arid climate for his wife’s health. In the four years that he was in Utah, he became a strong voice for the Democratic Party, made friends in the hierarchy of the Mormon Church, and was elected to office in the Utah Press Association.
The four-page newspaper did not carry news—its stock-in-trade was commentary on the events of the day. While Taylor was a self-described “heathen,” his essays on race and politics were liberally sprinkled with quotations from the Bible, along with references to Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish teachings. Every issue of the paper included the following proclamation: “The Broad Ax will promulgate and at all times uphold the true principles of Democracy, but farmers, Catholics, Protestants, Knights of Labor, Infidels, Mormons, Republicans, Priests, or anyone else can have their say so long as their language is proper and responsibility is fixed. The Broad Ax is a newspaper whose platform is broad enough for all, ever claiming the editorial right to speak its own mind.”
Taylor published his paper in Utah for four years; then, in 1899, he moved it to Chicago, where it operated for several more decades.
Image: The front page title of an issue of the Broad Ax. September 14, 1895. Courtesy of Utah Digital Newspapers.
Michael S. Sweeney, “A Minority Voice in the Wilderness: Julius F. Taylor and the ‘Broad Ax’ of Salt Lake City,” unpublished paper; Utah Digital Newspapers, “The Broad Ax,”; Jeffrey D. Nichols, “The Broad Ax and the Plain Dealer Kept Utah’s African Americans Informed,” Utah History to Go