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Race and Justice on the Minnesota Frontier

Posted byregana on 04 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: African American, Book Excerpt, MHS press, Native American

A Peculiar ImbalanceIn honor of Black History Month, we bring you an amazing story of early Minnesota told by historian William Green in his book, A Peculiar Imbalance: The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Early Minnesota.

In 1827 a military officer brought Jim Thompson, born a slave on the Virginia plantation of James Monroe, to Fort Snelling. There the young Thompson became fluent in French and Dakota. Methodists in Ohio purchased his liberty in 1837 so he could work as a translator for a missionary at Little Crow’s village of Kaposia. The mission lasted just two years. Thompson married a daughter of the Dakota leader Cloud Man, was briefly one of the whiskey sellers in what would become St. Paul, ran the first ferry across the Mississippi, and was a major donor to the construction of the city’s First Methodist Church. But his efforts to protect a girl from rape and his testimony at her assailant’s trial left the best clues to his character and his position in the community.

“The Story of Jim Thompson” is just one of many surprising tales told in this fine book.

Yasmeen Maxamuud at the Loft

Posted byMary Poggione on 19 May 2010 | Tagged as: African American, Event, Literary

Nomad Diaries book coverSomali-American writer Yasmeen Mavamuud will be at the Loft Literary Center in downtown Minneapolis this Saturday, May 22, at 3:00 to discuss her book Nomad Diaries.

Nomad Diaries chronicles the lives of Somali-Americans, the trials and tibulations, successes and joys, of builing a new lives for themselves in the United States.

For more information, check out the Nomad Diaries website or this review from the Star Tribune.

While the book is set in Minneapolis, Yasmeen Maxamuud actually lives in San Diego, so don’t miss this opportunity to meet her.

Tales of an Ice Palace from the Inside Out

Posted bypennefesm on 23 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: African American, Authors, History, MHS Author in the News, MHS press

phpTn0BZTEarlier this week, Cathy Wurzer, host of MPR’s Morning Edition and author of Tales of the Road: Highway 61, interviewed historian Annette Atkins about the life and works of African American architect Clarence W. “Cap” Wigington, who was the lead designer in the office of St. Paul’s city architect from the 1920s through the 1940s.

Wurzer and Atkins, who is a professor of history and the author of Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out, met at the Wigington Pavilion on Harriet Island and had a lively conversation about Wigington’s work (the Highland Park Water Tower is Atkins’s favorite) and his remarkable achievements—including designing Winter Carnival ice palaces. Read more about him in Cap Wigington: An Architectural Legacy in Ice and Stone by David Vassar Taylor and Paul Clifford Larson, which features lovely color reproductions of some of his drawings.

Wurzer is seeking suggestions for further history topics. What untold Minnesota history tales would you like to hear explored on the radio? Send her an e-mail ( or message via Twitter (@CathyWurzer).

Baseball on Our Minds

Posted bypennefesm on 26 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: African American, History, Sports

php7ksF4TWith Saturday’s open house at the new Target Field, followed by the Gophers­-Louisiana Tech game, we’re reminded of the many terrific baseball stories in Swinging for the Fences: Black Baseball in Minnesota,edited by Steve Hoffbeck. Here’s a fun sample: “Willie Mays with the Minneapolis Millers, 1951.”

Where to Go, What to Read

Posted bypennefesm on 19 Feb 2010 | Tagged as: African American, Authors, Event, History, MHS press

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Try one of these programs, then read books that help you go deeper into the story.

phpnmYWyPState Capitol Art Treasures Hunt : Go on a self-guided scavenger hunt to discover twelve beautiful and important decorations in the state capitol building. Then read Thomas O’Sullivan’s North Star Statehouse: An Armchair Guide to the Minnesota State Capitol and learn how they got there.


Looking Toward Spring on the FphprtrwAparm : Visit the Oliver H. Kelley Farm at Elk River and see how families prepared for spring by helping to clean up the barn, sorting through the remaining preserved foods and crocks, feeding the animals, and checking on seed stock and equipment repairs. Then read Barns of Minnesota with photographs by Doug Ohman and text by Will Weaver, a beautiful and evocative story of the life of a barn.


History HiJinx: Black History Month Craft Activity and Scavenger Hunt : Explore the museum galleries and hunt for special cards to learn about African American men and women who made significant contributions to the state of Minnesota. Kids can use these images, as well as other collage materials, to create a “tunnel book.” Then read David V. Taylor’s African Americans in Minnesota, a rich history of the group’s experiences and accomplishments.

The King Legacy

Posted bypennefesm on 15 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: African American, History, Literary

phpMyjfF0Our friends at Beacon Press in Boston have partnered with the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. in a new publishing program, “The King Legacy,” which gives Beacon the sole right to print new editions of previously published King titles and to compile Dr. King’s writings, sermons, orations, lectures, and prayers into entirely new editions, including significant new introductions by leading scholars.

Beacon Press director Helene Atwan writes: “ I have been rereading and listening to Dr. King a lot of late (as you might imagine) and what surprises me most is how current his thinking is, how he seems to be speaking not from the 1950s or 60s but from the post 9/11 era, even from the Obama era. What he has to say to us in an age of globalization, in a so-called ‘post-racial’ age, is as valid and in some respects more urgent in a world where 25,000 children die in poverty every day; in a world where American soldiers are killing and dying in an unjust war; in a world where too many people are judged daily by the color of their skin, or the name they give their God, rather than the content of their character.”

Now available from Beacon Press are:

php8fMmcaStride Toward Freedom, Dr. King’s account of the Montgomery bus boycott, a book which should be read not only for its historic value but for what it teaches us about community activism. Like all of the books in the King Legacy, Stride has a new introduction (this one by acclaimed King scholar Clayborne Carson), which places the book in its historic perspective and describes how the book speaks to the twenty-first century.


php7D2P30Where Do We Go From Here, which was first published in paperback by Beacon Press in 1968 and includes a foreword by Coretta Scott King and new introduction by Dr. Vincent Harding, who was a close associate of Dr. King and is the author of many works about him.



To learn more about the King Legacy and Beacon Press, to order books, and to find additional resources on the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., go here.

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