Voices of Minnesota

Rondo Oral History Project


DATE: 1997-1998, 2003-2004

INTERVIEWERS: Kateleen Cavett (principal interviewer), Manny Anderson, John Biewen, Christina Bonkowske, Sarah Brandt, Tony O. Dosen, Bettina Heiss, Krissy Kopp, Kent Shifferd, Buelah Baines Swan and Kimberly Zielinski

Collection of interviews, created by Hand in Hand Productions, capturing the lives and experiences of long time residents of St. Paul, Minnesota's Rondo community, an urban neighborhood situated near the city's downtown commercial district. A mixed neighborhood with respect to ethnicity and income, it has been home to a significant African American population since the early 1900s and was a particularly vibrant community in the 1930s. The neighborhood was essentially devastated by the construction of Interstate Highway 94 through its center in the 1960s. Many of its African American inhabitants, businesses, churches, fraternal orders, and social clubs were displaced into more segregated locales where they faced discrimination in housing and other areas.

Subjects discussed by the interviewees include life in the Rondo community, including the role of music, church, and social clubs; resistance and reaction to the highway construction; eviction from Rondo Avenue and trying to find housing elsewhere, transitioning from predominantly black schools to predominantly white schools, and discrimination outside Rondo; racism; employment opportunities during World War II and the subsequent loss of opportunities after the war; military experiences during the war, including in the Tuskegee Airmen and in a Navy band; activities at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and the Sterling Club; work experiences of both men and women of the community; obstacles to achieving success; and both male and female service in the St. Paul Police Department.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEWS: 38 hours 34 minutes

TRANSCRIPTS: 1,914 pages