AnnaBelle Weakley: Businesswoman & Community Builder

Title

AnnaBelle Weakley: Businesswoman & Community Builder

Description

Meet AnnaBelle Weakley – known as the “Queen of 25th Street” – and learn how her entrepreneurial instinct and civic spirit transformed her Ogden community.

During the mid-twentieth century, there was no railroad hub in Utah busier than Ogden, and no neighborhood in Ogden livelier than 25th Street.  And the Queen of 25th Street was AnnaBelle Weakley.  As the first black woman to run a business in Ogden, Weakley’s story is one of tenacity in the face of disadvantage.

Born a sharecropper’s daughter in the segregated South, Weakley moved to Ogden in the 1930s.  It did not help her escape segregation, however, which divided blacks and whites –geographically and socially – all over the nation.  In Ogden, blacks and whites had their own social organizations and businesses – and never crossed paths as they walked down different sides of the street.  Black people – and especially black women – had few opportunities to advance. 

AnnaBelle Weakley was not deterred.  Her new husband owned the Porters and Waiters Club on 25th Street, which catered to black railroad workers who needed lodging between shifts.  Under AnnaBelle’s guidance, the Club became more than just a place for temporary room and board, but a welcoming gathering place for Ogden’s black community.  She built a lounge, booked traveling blues and jazz musicians, and eventually transformed Porters and Waiters into one of the West’s most rousing and respected music scenes.

After the Club shut down in the 1960s, Weakley continued her community-building efforts.  She financially supported welfare projects in Ogden, and her civic spirit drove her work with the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, and the Legal Aid Society.  She also served on the Governor’s Black Advisory Council – where she focused on substance abuse counseling – and worked as an Ethnic Minority Specialist in the prison system.

When AnnaBelle Weakley first came to Ogden, she was a newcomer, a racial minority, and a woman at a time when any one of those factors could make a person feel powerless.  But she was determined to build a better life for herself in Utah.  And along the way, her work helped improve hundreds of other lives in her community as well.

Creator

Ogden Union Station © 2017 

Source

Image: AnnaBelle Weakley with her two children, 115 25th Street, Ogden, circa 1950. Courtesy Weber State University.
________________

See Richard S. Roberts and Richard W. Sadler, The Social and Cultural History of Weber County, Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1977, pp. 398- 403; “AnnaBelle Weakley-Mattson Obituary,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 20, 2008; “News Brief,” Ogden Standard Examiner, July 28, 1961, p. 11; Derek P. Jensen, “Utahns Pave Way for Civil Rights, See Long Road Ahead,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 19, 2009; Porters and Waiters at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n2WzSk-J6U and Ogden’s Porters and Waiters Club at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiiKsMY__Ds

Publisher

The Beehive Archive is a production of Utah Humanities. Find sources and the whole collection of past episodes at www.utahhumanities.org

Date

2017-11-24