African Americans in the River Street neighborhood

Clara and Warner Lewis Terrell

Clara Stevens was born into a farming family in Rigby, Idaho. Clara’s parents were born in Utah and her great grandfather migrated with Brigham Young to Utah. Her father grew potatoes and sugar beets. The Stevens were the only African Americans in the area. Clara and her two brothers attended the neighborhood school and were the only colored children there. Occasionally they were called names; however they stood up for themselves. Clara once was expelled for fighting with another student who picked on her. Both students were expelled, but were allowed back to school after apologizing. She was raised Mormon, but later attended a Methodist church in Boise.

Clara Stevens married Warner Lewis Terrell in 1935. Warner was born and raised in Boise, Idaho and attended Boise High School. Schools were not segregated then, however some families did not approve of integration.

Clara married in 1935, and lived at 527 S. 14th St., Boise, Idaho. The Terrells lived in the diverse River Street neighborhood. They had two children, a daughter, Zenobia, and a son, Warner Jr. During their time in Boise the children attended the neighborhood school, because schools were not segregated. Mr. Terrell had attended Boise High School. Both Clara and her husband Warner worked at the Owyhee Hotel. Clara checked wraps at the Owyhee Hotel, the Hillcrest Country Club, and the Arid Club. She worked when they had banquets and dances at the various clubs. There were also other African Americans who worked at the clubs as waiters, and janitors.

According to Clara Terrell’s experiences in Boise, discrimination was rare, and she rarely experienced it herself. One issue she observed was when African Americans were looking for a place to rent; they would call for an appointment and would hear that the property had already been rented. During World War II, there was also an increase of African Americans living and working in the Boise area.

Washington State University Archives & Oral Histories (photos and oral history)

Images are available at

Below are the links for the oral history of the family