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Remembering Selma in Minnesota

By Trish Olson, Assistant to the Associate Dean

I heard on the news that approximately 70,000 people crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge near Selma, AL this weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. On March 7, 1965, state troopers and county sheriffs’ deputies attacked civil rights marchers using tear gas and billy clubs rather than let them cross the bridge. This week, I would like us to take time to remember a 1931 incident in Minneapolis that reminds Minnesotans of our own struggles with racism.

From the Star Tribune's Yesterday's News blog.

In November 2014, the Minneapolis Star Tribune posted an article in its “Yesterday’s News” blog about this incident, which was originally reported in what was then called the Minneapolis Tribune. Here’s background on the incident:

In June 1931, Arthur and Edith Lee bought a two-bedroom bungalow at 4600 Columbus Avenue in south Minneapolis. The Lees were black; the neighborhood white. Despite threats from the neighborhood association, they moved into the home in July, along with their 6-year-old daughter. A group of neighbors offered to buy the home back for $300 more than the Lees had paid. The family declined.

From the Star Tribune's Yesterday's News blog.
"Nobody asked me to move out when I was in France fighting in mud and water for this country," Arthur Lee, a World War I veteran, told the Tribune. "I came out here to make this house my home. I have a right to establish a home."

The Star Tribune reprinted the original 1931 article, which was headlined: Crowd of 3,000 Renews Attack on Negroes’ Home. Stones Again Hurled at House on Columbus Avenue. Neighbors Walk Out of Meeting When Peace Is Urged. Here are excerpts from the original article:
While city leaders tried desperately to effect a peaceful settlement of the affair, the rising tide of protest against occupancy of a home at 4600 Columbus Avenue by a Negro family Wednesday night resulted in another, more violent demonstration outside the home.

More than 3,000 persons assembled outside the home, occupied by A.A. Lee and his family, to hurl defiance at the police and openly threaten Lee and his friends. Every available police gun squad was rushed to the scene to keep the crowd under control. Read the entire article
Why am I bringing this up? Shouldn’t Selma be honored on its own without bringing Minnesota into this time of remembering? Sometimes, I think in Minnesota we say smugly, “Those things happened in the South. How lucky we are to be not from such prejudiced places.” Remembering our own Minnesota history — both the good and the flawed — reminds us that such racist activities can, and do, happen everywhere, even Minnesota.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — George Santayana

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