The History of Race Relations in Minneapolis

The History of Race Relations in Minneapolis

In matters of race, there is a long, troubled, and all too often deadly history in the United States. But for today, we are going to cover Minneapolis in particular. Some of the highest racial disparities in the country can be seen in Minneapolis. In order to confront this painful truth, it is important to understand the hurtful legacies from which they originate. George Floyd’s death may be the most prominent news story of modern times, but the issues are long-standing.

African American Population In Minnesota Through The Years


African Americans have been residing in Minnesota since the 1800s. Some were born there while others migrated in search of better opportunities. Discrimination and inequality were par for the course, however, African Americans created communities that were rich in culture that thrived regardless of the opposition. The population of African Americans in Minnesota and Minneapolis, in particular, has always been small. In fact, the number stayed below 1% for several years. In modern times that number sits at around 19% according to the most recent census.

Voting Rights For African Americans In Minnesota


All over the country, including in Minneapolis, Black people were denied the right to vote. This was in part due to not being recognized as fully a person and due to the system not fully being able to do away with the idea of Black people being second-class citizens. In 1868, the equal suffrage amendment was approved which gave Black men the right to vote, but only after having been rejected twice.

Segregation & Unfair Housing Rules


The state was considered to be progressive, but in actuality, many hotels, stores, and restaurants denied African Americans service. There were also restrictive housing covenants that limited where Black families could live, and the effects of those restrictive housing covenants can still be seen to this very day. Schools were equally difficult to access which led to repeated and continuous legal filings for Black civil rights. Despite laws being in effect to prevent discrimination, Black people were still being denied and even arrested for attempting to claim their rights. Even in 2021 Minneapolis still has the lowest number of black homeowners in the country, and many neighborhoods still reflect the past racist housing covenants that were abolished in the last century.

Towards the end of the 1800s and into the start of 1900, African American communities began to form interest groups to help fight back against discrimination. The Minnesota Citizen Civil Rights Committee, the Afro-American League, and the Minnesota Protective and Industrial League are some of the most notable in and around Minneapolis. With the help of idealists like Fredrick McGhee, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois and others, the NAACP was formed. In 1914, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People opened a branch in Minneapolis, where it still exists to this very day.

Race Riots In Minnesota


There has been a lot of protest and riots due to race in recent years, however, America has seen its fair share of such in the past. In fact, 1919 was termed the Red Summer due to the massive number of deaths and property damage caused during widespread race riots. Housing discrimination was and still is common in Minneapolis. In the past, it often led to race riots and other violent acts any time family of color would move into a neighborhood that was all white. One of the most notable stories is from 1931 when Arthur and Edith Lee bought a home in South Minneapolis. The white residents would protest outside their home every night abusing the family with racial slurs, through black paint, threatening the family, and even leaving trash and excrement on the property. After two years of such terrible racial abuse, the family moved to a Black neighborhood. In 2014, their home was included in the National Register of Historic

The Long Hot Summer Of Minneapolis


While it is easy to think racial issues were left behind in the last century, 1967 in Minneapolis brought with it another slew of deadly race riots. Racial tensions that had been building for years regarding the overwhelming about of police brutality against Black people finally erupted. All along Plymouth Avenue African Americans held demonstrations that lasted well over a week. Even the National Guard was called in an attempt to control the crowd. This is similar to what we have seen in the past couple of years during the George Floyd protest in Minneapolis and across the country.

Job Inequality For Blacks In Minneapolis


Employment discrimination has been and is still quite pervasive in the state. In the past, many white employers flat out refused to hire people of color while others would only offer unskilled positions such as cooks, waiters, and physical laborers. Even unions barred Black people from being members, which further limited their ability to seek fair wages and equal employment. In many jobs where Black people were hired, they would be paid less than half of what white employees would make for the exact same position. Things started to improve in the 1940s slightly when the Democratic–Farmer-Labor Party was formed.

Police Brutality Then and Now


Race has been a hot-button topic in the country for as long as America has been around. The racial ideas and conflicts faced by African Americans of today are mainly caused by deep-seated generational racism that spans hundreds of years. Police in Minnesota have always been brutal and often erred on the side of white residents in conflicts, which still holds true today. There have been many laws enacted in the city and in the state as a whole limiting behavior based on race, however, the problem is actually much deeper. Before joining the force, many of the men and women are raised with the assumption that Black people are criminals, liars, and violent. Even if not actively taught, the atmosphere in Minneapolis supports this way of thinking. As a result, once they put on a uniform their conscious and unconscious views are taken with them into the line of duty. This has lead to an increase in abuse of power and police brutality against people of color in the community.

Forging A Way Forward For The Culture

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The History of Sunday Hats in the Black Church

The History of Sunday Hats in the Black Church

When one thinks of the Black Church, one usually envisions a powerful sermon given by a pastor or the lively gospel music that can be heard from the parking lot. However, another key component of this community is the brightly colored, feathered, and extravagant church hats adorned by the older Black women.

What many don’t realize is that these hats are heavily rooted in African culture and are significant to the resilience of the Black community and the hardship we had to overcome.

Becoming popular head pieces after slavery, church hats symbolize all that our ancestors endured. In an article by Rébecca Joachim, she talks about slave owners and how they would shave enslaved Africans’ heads during the slave trade as an act of humiliation and degradation. To combat this horrendous act and to express their individuality, many women wore headdresses and other head pieces as they worked in the field.

As time went on, church hats started to make an appearance in church culture. These beautiful, bold hats were worn to give honor to God, and the women who wore them wanted to look and feel their best while they were in the house of the Lord. 

In one of Dr. Vivian Seamon’s articles, she said that it’s believed women wore church hats in an attempt to “catch God’s eye” and reach heaven.

I spoke with my mother on the topic of church hats in the Black community and she vividly remembered them when she was a young girl attending church at Israelite Missionary Baptist Church, a small church in rural South Louisiana. 

“I remember never being able to see the preacher because the hats were so big,” she laughingly said.

Many don’t realize the artform that is church hats. Each church hat, made with its sequins, beads, and sometimes diamonds, are usually hand-made and take an extensive amount of time, dedication, and love to be created. From there, women choose their hats according to outfits, shoes, accessories, and personal style.

These flamboyant hats tell many stories about the Black church and the strength of our ancestors. Church hats are an integral part of the Black church culture, and we must always remember their significance.