African American History/Influence in Minnesota

Places of Interest to Visit: African American History/Influence in Minnesota

Fort Snelling- Dred Scott’s quarters.

Dred Scott and his wife Harriet likely lived in this space from 1836-1840, when he was the fort doctor’s slave.

Lena O. Smith House

The Lena O. Smith House is a house in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. Its owner, Lena O. Smith, was a prominent civil rights attorney. She was born in 1885 in Lawrence, Kansas and moved with her family to Minneapolis in 1906. She enrolled at William Mitchell College of Law (then the Northwestern College of Law) and graduated in 1921. Afterward, she opened her own law firm and became the first African-American attorney in Minneapolis.[2] In her practice, she fought for issues such as equal protection under the law, equal access to housing, and the right to join labor unions. As an activist, she was a founder of the Minneapolis Urban League, and the first woman president of the Minneapolis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1935 through 1939. Her house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a local landmark in recognition to the African-American community in Minneapolis.

From History Center: Black History Makers in Minnesota: – useful PDF to reference. According to this document, you can include Fort Snelling (as well as for the Dred Scott item), which is where black Minnesotans were located who served in every U.S. war since statehood (when it was a functioning fort).

Places known to be Prince Sites

First Avenue.

Nice Ride MN has a Prince for a Day Tour  that includes First Ave, Glam Slam (which is now Shout House), Sound 80 and 3420 Snelling Ave S (House from Purple Rain).

Other Famous Black Minnesotans

Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul

Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul was named for the former exec director of the NAACP and he was a U of M graduate. He was a key figure of the Civil Rights Movement, including organizing the historic March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his “I Have a Dream” speech. . He moved to St. Paul when he was 4 years old and grew up in the area. His alma mater, the U of M, created the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations & Human Justice.

August Wilson

August Wilson lived in St. Paul and wrote two Pulitzer Prize winning plays and a Tony Award winning play there – I don’t have a location but his plays are often produced by the Penumbra Theatre, which is an African American theatre company. 270 N Kent St, St Paul, MN 55102. From his bio:

(in 1978)… the budding playwright moved to St Paul, Minnesota where worked writing educational scripts for Science Museum of Minnesota. The Playwrights’ Center in Minnesota awarded him a fellowship in 1980 and he left his job a year later; he continued writing plays while working as a chef for the Little Brothers of the Poor.

In Minnesota Wilson built a strong relationship with the Penumbra Theatre Company which produced many of his plays in the eighties and in 1987 the city named May 25th August Wilson day after his Pulitzer Prize award in the same year. Wilson left St Paul for Seattle in 1990.

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks, acclaimed photographer, director and writer and co-founder of Essence magazine, is also from St. Paul but I don’t see much as to where he lived – just “in St. Paul” in his bio. They named a high school in St. Paul after him at 1212 University Ave, St Paul, MN 55104 – Gordon Parks High School. Gordon attended Mechanics Arts High School in St. Paul (no longer in existence), he lived in a rooming house, took a job at the Minnesota Club as a bellboy and enrolled at Central High School but later quit school to move to Chicago to find work. Later he worked at Frank Murphy’s women’s clothing in St. Paul (not sure but don’t think it still exists).

Frederick McGhee

Frederick McGhee, the first African American lawyer in MN, was also one of the first nationally prominent Black Democrats. From his bio online, “A Catholic, he was very involved in Saint Peter Claver Church in St. Paul, MN.” (It appears to be at St. Anthony Ave & N. Oxford St but there’s not address listed). He died in St. Paul in 1912.

Black-owned News Media

The Minnesota Spokesman Recorder

744 4th Ave S
Minneapolis Minnesota, 55409-1327

The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder is the oldest minority owned business in the state of Minnesota. Established in August 1934 by Cecil E. Newman, the Spokesman-Recorder today remains a family-run newspaper company that is African American and woman-owned, led by CEO/Publisher, Tracey Williams-Dillard, granddaughter to Mr. Newman.

Insight News

1815 Bryant Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411 – A Black newspaper published in Minneapolis, and one of the first African-American newspapers online.

Other Sites

Clarence W. Wigington

Wigington was the Unites States’ first African-American municipal architect. He served as the senior designed of the City of St. Paul, Minnesota’s architectural office for 34 years. Sixty of his buildings still stand in St. Paul. Several are recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Below are some of his notable designs and addresses in St. Paul.

Highland Park Water Tower
1570 Highland Parkway, St. Paul

Roy Wilkins Auditorium
175 Kellogg Boulevard W, St. Paul

(See section from the History Center above for information about Roy Wilkins)

Holman Field Administration Building
644 Bayfield St, St. Paul

Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion
(Formerly known as the Harriet Island Pavilion)
75 Water Street, St. Paul

St. James A.M.E. Church
624 Central Avenue West, St. Paul

Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center
1700 Third Avenue S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

According to its website, MAAM “is an educational, cultural and archival museum dedicated to researching, presenting, acquiring and preserving the history of African Americans in Minnesota.

As a community resource, MAAM seeks to ignite discovery and fuel interest in learning experiences derived from studying history presented through museum exhibits and educational/artistic programs. Through the Minnesota African American Museum visitors to Minnesota and Minnesota citizens alike will see how African American history has contributed to the long term health and vitality of the Twin Cities and the State.”

The Somali Museum of Minnesota
The Somali Museum of Minnesota
1516 East Lake Street, Suite 011
Minneapolis, MN 55407=

According to its website, “the Somali Museum is the home of traditional Somali arts in Minnesota.  Displaying a collection of over 700 pieces, and offering educational programs about Somali traditional culture that are not offered anywhere else, the Somali Museum offers an unrivaled opportunity for Minnesotans of all backgrounds to encounter and learn about Somali traditional culture.”