St. Louis Park was basically started by a band of
stalwart New Englanders. In came the Germans and then the
Scandinavians. The population of the
Park was to remain homogeneous for many years. This chapter
outlines some of the events that occurred on the road to the
acceptance to all races, creeds and colors that we aspire to
today. Much of the immigration information found at
the end of this timeline came from
http://education.mnhs.org/immigration/ Your comments and contributions are welcome;
please contact us.
Also see our companion page,
Jewish Migration to St. Louis Park
and the Hennepin County Library's web pages about
20th Century Growth and Diversity,
20th Century Growth and Diversity Maps, 1930s,
20th Century Growth and Diversity Maps, 1990-2000,
The first known African-American in Minnesota was said to be
George Bonga, a fur trader who died in 1874.
In 1820, the Missouri Compromise banned slavery in the
Louisiana Territory north of the southern border of
The first African-Americans to come to Minnesota arrived as
the slaves of Major Lawrence Taliaferro, who came to Fort
Snelling on May 2, 1823. He sold some of the slaves to his
friends at the Fort and freed the rest.
In 1851, the US Government signed treaties with the Dakota at
Traverse des Sioux and Mendota, opening up southwestern
Minnesota to white settlers.
In 1855, the US Government and the Ojibwe signed a treaty in
Slaves Harriet and Dred Scott came to Minnesota with their
owner, a Fort Snelling surgeon. in 1836. In 1857,
Scott sued for his freedom, since Minnesota was not a slave
state, but a far-reaching Supreme Court decision ruled that
he could not claim freedom; i.e., his owner had a right to
legislature considered a bill in 1854 that required
African-American residents to post a bond of $300 to $500 as
a “guarantee” of good behavior.
In a move to contest the right of foreigners to vote, the
Know Nothing Party proposed a 21-year waiting period before
immigrants could become citizens, as opposed to five years.
The secretive Know Nothings had been formed in 1854 to try
to keep Irish Catholics out of the U.S.
Although Minnesota was
admitted as a free state in 1858, there were those who
supported slavery. In March 1860, the Democratic party put
forth a bill that would allow slave owners to bring their
slaves into Minnesota and keep them here for six months
without challenge. That bill was defeated, and Republican
Abraham Lincoln roundly defeated Democrat Stephen Douglas
that same year.
In 1867 the State legislature created the State Board of
Immigration to encourage immigration to Minnesota.
Black men first won the vote in Minnesota in 1868 after two
previous referenda turned it down. That year, the Sons of
Freedom was formed, open to all African-Americans in the
State who needed assistance in jobs and trades, or in
maintaining their personal property.
On January 1, 1869, black residents of Minnesota held a
convention at Ingersoll Hall in St. Paul to “celebrate the
Emancipation of 4,000,000 slaves, and to express… gratitude
for the bestowal of the elective franchise to the colored
people of this State.” Locally there were 16 black families
that lived in Edina from the end of the Civil War until the
late 30s, when they moved to Minneapolis.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 attempted to stem the tide
of Chinese to the west coast. The U.S. Bureau of
Immigration was created in 1891 to enforce the law.
1892 was the height of Southern lynching, with 161 black men
murdered at the hands of white mobs. On May 31, the
African American population of Minneapolis gathered at the
Labor Temple to "protest the crimes of colored people in the
South." It was a prelude to the Republican National
Convention which convened in June 1892.
Minnesota’s first Mexican resident was Luis Garzon, a
trained oboist and graduate of Mexico City’s Conservatory of
Music. He came to play with the Mexican National Band at the
Minneapolis Industrial Exposition in 1894 and stayed. His
children were the state’s first Mexican-Americans.
J. Frank Wheaton was the first black State Legislator,
elected to the House in 1898 and serving in the 1899-1901 session.
Wheaton was also the first African-American graduate of the
U of M Law School. After his term in office he moved
to New York City and became a prominent civil rights
The assassination of President William McKinley by an
anarchist in 1901 led to the Anarchist Exclusion Act in
In 1907, Congress established the Dillingham Commission to
investigate the impact of immigration on the U.S. The
report favored northern Europeans and resulted in quotas on
immigrants from southern and eastern Europe in the 1920s.
Mexican migrant workers were known to be in Minnesota as
early as 1907 to work in the sugar beet farms. Most
returned south for the winter.
The 1915 film "Birth of a Nation" brought the resurgence of
the Ku Klux Klan, which had been a post-Civil War
organization located mainly in the South. By the
1920s, one third of its membership was from the Midwest.
In 1916, the first permanent Mexican-American settlement was
established on St. Paul’s west side. Residents formed the
Sociedad Anahuac, with the purpose of promoting civic,
social and religious activities of Mexicans and chicanos.
During World War I, blacks were encouraged to come north to
work in the factories, but with the return of the
servicemen, were considered "loathsome competition."
A 1919 state law prohibited restrictive covenants on the
basis of religious faith or creed but not race.
Three black carnival workers were lynched in Duluth in 1920,
accused of raping a white girl. No one is convicted for the
Read about this terrible time at
In 1921, Minnesota passed the nation's first anti-lynching
law. The Klan came to Minneapolis that same year.
Minikahda Vista, carved out of the Hanke farm, was
advertised in a pamphlet that listed "Twelve Facts to
Consider Carefully." One promised "Building restrictions of
$5,500 to $6,500 to protect your home investment." Also no
apartments or duplexes, just single family homes that had to
have two stories.
The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 set limits on the number of
people of all nationalities allowed to immigrate in
accordance with the number already in the country.
The Ku Klux Klan made its presence known through the
newspaper Voice of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,
published only twice in February and April 1923. It was
published by the North Star Klan No. 2 of Minneapolis - one
of up to 10 Klans in Minneapolis. The first issue features a
letter to members of the Minnesota State Legislature signed
by the "Exalted Cyclops," and provides a guide to what it
stands for, which is freedom of religion, but not for
Catholics in politics. The second issue makes it clear - the
screaming headline reads "Plot of Rome to Grasp Control of
U.S." A cartoon shows the Pope sitting on the globe, pulling
puppet strings and aided by a bag of money contributed by
the Knights of Columbus. Apparently the KKK saw as many
Catholics infiltrating the government as McCarthy saw
Communists. One statement meant to prove its righteousness
is particularly colorful:
You will find every Bootlegger, Blindpigger, Dive
and Resort Keeper, every Dope Seller, every Crook and
Criminal in the United States individually and
collectively opponents of the Ku Klux Klan, and lined up
with these... will be found every Anarchist, every I.W.W.,
every "Red" Radical, every enemy of the Public Schools,
every Servant of a Foreign Pope and every Alien Enemy of
For more on the Klan, see "One Flag, One School, One
Language, Minnesota's Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s" by Elizabeth
Dorsey Hatle and Nancy M. Vaillancourt in the Winter
2009-2010 issue of Minnesota History.
In 1924, the Country Club District of Edina was platted. The
subdivision, built by Samuel Thorpe, was based on a similar subdivision in Kansas
City and from the first was meant for the higher classes.
The first house, sold in June 1924, was located on Browndale
Avenue in the heart of the development.
By 1927, 200 houses
and a golf course had been built, despite the Depression.
Homebuyers faced many restrictions as to the cost of the
houses they built, the kinds of trees they could plant, the
animals they could keep, etc. Most notably, occupants were
strictly restricted to the "white or Caucasian race." All
restrictions were to expire on or before January 1, 1964
except the one regarding race, which was to remain in force
forever. All such race-specific real estate
covenants were invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in
1948. Such attitudes contributed to the movement of the
Settle, Lucas, and Yancey families, black families that had
lived in Edina for generations, to move to Minneapolis.
The Oriental Exclusion Act was enacted in 1924. Also
in 1924, the U.S. Border Patrol was created.
In 1926, it is rumored that crosses were burned near
Catholic residences in the Park. It is reported that a cross
was burned in St. Paul on May 25, 1926.
A 1927 flier advertising lots in the Norwaldo neighborhood
of St. Louis Park had many restrictions. Each street had a minimum amount that
you had to spend to build your house. They ranged from $800
to $3,000, with the highest priced homes to be built on Lake
Street and Minnetonka Blvd. The flier included the
following: "No lots sold to colored people or unnaturalized foreigners, belonging to the 'Dago' class."
In 1928, Father Francis J. Gilligan of the Archdiocese of
St. Paul published his thesis "The Morality of the Color
Line, An Examination of the Right and the Wrong of the
Discriminations Against the Negro in the United States."
A 1932 note in the Hennepin County Review informs us that
Miss Alice Feudner and Mrs. Alfred Truman were directing
rehearsals of "A Night in Harlem," a negro comedy.
In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act recognized Indians'
right to live as a separate culture and form their own
In 1938, Calhoun Realty advertised the new subdivision of
Knollwood, "a restricted, architecturally controlled
subdivision of beautiful picturesque homes." The term
"restricted" sometimes meant that you had to build an
expensive two-story house, and usually meant no Jews and
In 1942, the Bracero Program recruited Mexican workers for
the war effort. The program ended in 1964; at its peak
in 1956 it recruited more than 445,000 temporary workers.
In December 1943, Governor Edward J. Thye established the
Governor's Interracial Commission of Minnesota. Father
Francis Gilligan served as Chair and Clifford Rucker was
Executive Director. The commission worked to allow
blacks into the National Guard, end segregation of veterans'
burial plots at Fort Snelling, fight racial discrimination
at St. Cloud Reformatory, and even fight the color bar at
the American Bowling League.
On March 10, 1944, the Hennepin County Historical Society
hosted a talk by Rev. Edwin T. Randall of Hopkins. The
subject of his talk was “The Race Problem in the World to
Come.” Randall was the director of the Bible School of the
Some of the earliest incidents of what would now be
considered racism were the minstrel shows that various
groups put on for fun or to raise money. They probably were
not malicious, since most of the people involved had never
even seen a black person. These shows might be found
in schools, churches, the PTA, and one in 1946 when St.
Louis Park Cub Scouts held a minstrel show in blackface,
performing to 700 people.
Meanwhile, African-Americans faced discriminatory practices
that kept them out of the postwar building boom or
restricted them to certain parts of town. This
discrimination was carried out by builders, but also banks,
the Federal Housing Administration, and the Veterans
In March 1945, the Governor's Interracial Commission of
Minnesota issued a pamphlet entitled The Negro Worker in
Minnesota. Among other things, it revealed that the
largest employer of black labor was the Twin Cities Ordnance
Plant. Other major employers were Northwest Airlines,
Munsingwear, Brown and Bigelow, International Harvester, and
An article entitled "Minneapolis: The Curious Twin,"
written by essayist Carey McWilliams, was published in
Common Ground magazine (September 1946). McWilliams
proclaimed "Minneapolis is the capitol of anti-Semitism in
the United States. In almost every walk of life, 'an iron
curtain' separates Jews from non-Jews in Minneapolis." See
Jewish Migration to St. Louis Park for a description of
the kinds of discrimination aimed at Minneapolis Jews.
As a response to the charges of anti-Semitism, Minneapolis Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey
appointed a task force to investigate the situation.
The task force confirmed the allegations, and also shone
light on discrimination against Blacks and American Indians.
Humphrey turned the task force into a permanent Mayor's
Council on Human Relations. Ordinances were passed in
the next two years that outlawed anti Semitic and racist
practices in housing and employment. In 1948, Humphrey gave a
groundbreaking speech on civil rights at the Democratic
National Convention. The
damage had been done, however, and soon synagogues and whole
neighborhood flocked to St. Louis Park, where they were
welcomed and accepted.
In July 1947, the Governor's Interracial Commission of
Minnesota issued The Negro and His Home in Minnesota.
Polling revealed that 63 percent would not sell their
property to a black person, even if offered a higher price.
Other publications of the Commission, headed by Father
Francis J. Gilligan, included "The Indian in Minnesota"
(1947), "Race Relations in Minnesota" (1948), "Negroes and
Whites as Fellow Workers" (1948), "The Oriental in
Minnesota" (1949), "The Negro Worker's Progress in
Minnesota" (1949), "The Indian in Minnesota" (1952), and
"The Mexican in Minnesota" (1953).
A February 17, 1948, editorial in the Echo reads:
The annual observance of American
Brotherhood Week will be held throughout the nation
The lack of tolerance in our country was
demonstrated recently by an incident concerning the
Freedom Train. Most of us were shocked when we
read that the very ideal of democracy had become the
center of race controversy. Citizens were segregated as
they entered the train to see such freedom documents as
the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and
the Emancipation Proclamation. Negroes were told
they could not see the documents which had given them
their freedom and the vote.
There are a few who have been misled,
thinking that there can exist a brotherhood from which
so-called "inferior" races must be barred. Let us
not be taken in by such a fallacy. Under such a
system our nation could no longer be "the place where
hate must die."
Not only during Brotherhood week but
throughout the year we must fight intolerance. It
is not hard to be tolerant when you realize that those
of another color or creed are not so very different from
you after all. You can't become tolerant with a
resolution. It takes work and study. The
more you learn, the more tolerant you will become.
On April 22, 1948, five students from Park High
participated in a discussion on civil rights for the Junior
Town Meeting of the Air program on WTCN radio.
Participants were Mary Dow, student director, John Kuntz,
Peggy Woodward, Bob Bevensee, and Rex Pickett. The
students discussed the President's Civil Rights program.
In 1948, race-specific real estate
covenants were invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Shelley vs. Kraemer, the Court determined that such
covenants were in violation of the Equal Protection clause
of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
1949 was a year in which the Park Department was greatly
expanding the number of parks throughout the Village. Gone
were the days that children played in the fields surrounding
their neighborhoods, as new houses replaced them. In one
particularly ugly incident, a park was planned for 40th and
Brunswick. But the man next to the proposed park, Mr. John
V. Knotz, objected. In fact, he objected so strenuously that
he threatened to sell his home to a “nigger” if the park was
built. Local citizenry, afraid he would follow up with his
threat, asked the Village authorities to move the
playground. They did.
An editorial in the February 13, 1951
Echo had this
Help to Eradicate All Prejudices
When you hear a beautiful song, do you
stop to wonder about the color of the composer's skin?
After reading a good book, do you ask yourself, "I
wonder what the author's religion and nationality may
be?" No, you appreciate the song or the book for
its own value and don't care about the author's color,
race or religion.
It is equally silly and unfair to hold a
person's race or religion against him at any time, for
he may have many wonderful qualities with which to serve
The eradication of prejudice and
intolerance takes time. National Brotherhood Week,
Feb. 18-25, is a start toward that goal.
With the world in its present chaos,
racial and religious prejudices are as out-moded as high
button shoes. Through everyone's working together,
the world may at last be - one world.
In March 1952 the St. Louis Park Echo reported that
Carl T. Rowan, Minneapolis Tribune staff writer,
would speak on "Race Relations and Education" before the
High School PTA. Rowan had been named "Outstanding man
of 1951" by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, "the first
Negro to win the honor in the history of the Minneapolis
Jaycee awards." Rowan authored articles for the
Tribune "How Far From Slavery?" Rowan graduated
from Oberlin College and took a Master's degree in
journalism from the University of Minnesota.
Park’s first black family to move in was the
family. Lewis was a nuclear physicist who had come to the Cities in
1952 to work at Honeywell. First accepted, then evicted,
they negotiated with their landlord in the face of public
outrage at their eviction. They won, but only stayed for six
months before moving into the City. Be sure to read the
whole story by clicking above.
In the wake of the Lewis incident, in November 1952,
representatives of 50 organizations met to see if they
should hold a community conference on human relations. The
meeting was held by the newly-formed Citizens Committee on
Human Relations in St. Louis Park. Leading the meeting was
Rev. Max Karl, regional director of the National Conference
of Christians and Jews.
On November 3rd and 4th, 1953, Roger DeClercq and Jack Alwin
produced the “Negro Classic Play ‘Green Pastures’” at the
high school. “Green Pastures is an attempt to present
certain aspects of a living religion in terms of its
beliefs. The religion is that of thousands of Negroes in the
deep south. With terrific spiritual hunger, these untutored
black Christians have adopted the contents of the Bible to
the consistencies of their everyday lives.” The show
featured a 30-voice choir singing 20 spirituals.
The February 24, 1954 issue of the Park High Echo
included an editorial entitle "Intelligence or Prejudice,"
under a sketch depicting Brotherhood Week. The
"Negro Refused Permission to Buy House in White
Community." It happens every day. Often,
such incidents aren't newsworthy enough to make the
headlines. Yes, it happens every day. But
Reason and common sense tell one, "No, of course such
prejudice is without basis in fact. A member of
any racial or religious minority group is no better at
best or no worse at worst than any supposedly superior
On the other hand, emotions decree, "A member of a
minority group is dirty or greedy or foreign in ideas
and habits. He is "different" so we must protect
ourselves from him" Unfounded in fact but
staunchly upheld in practice, prejudiced views have
lived for untold generations. Father and son,
mother and daughter, neighbor and friend have passed on
these unfair, irrational, narrow beliefs.
It's easy to take the road of prejudice. It's
easy to condemn, to criticize, to hurt. It's
difficult to accept, to support, to cooperate against
the practices of society. And nobody can made the
decision but you.
In the 1950s, the Park High Echo reflects an
overwhelmingly Christian bent, with the Glee Club singing at
churches, holidays called Christmas and Easter, and
virtually no mention of other faiths. The April 7,
1954, issue has a front page article entitled "Choir Honors
Easter With Spiritual Works," accompanied by a large picture
of an open Bible with the caption "My Redeemer Lives."
Inside is a sketch of a cross, captioned "Christ the Lord is
Risen." The Christmas and Easter holidays would not be
renamed Winter and Spring until 1970. There was an item
about Hanukah in the December 3, 1958 issue of the Echo.
In 1955 the State legislature established the Fair
Employment Practices Commission. In 1956, the body was
reconstituted as the Governor's Commission on Human Rights.
In his biography of Harry Reasoner, Douglass K. Daniel noted
an "unusually frank" edition of the weekly show "Twin City
Heartbeat" in the summer of 1956 called "The Invisible
Fence." The show about racial relations in Minneapolis
and St. Paul featured interviews with middle-class black
residents, who told of their experiences and "what they
endured in a supposedly tolerant Northern city."
"Presenting incidents of inequality and injustice, the
program closed with a plea for tolerance. Variety
[June 6, 1966] praised the program and Harry, and it won an
honorable mention in the Robert E. Sherwood Freedom and
Justice TV Awards."
In June 1958, the owner of 15 acres on Wayzata Blvd. gave an
option for $60,000 to builder Oscar Peterson to build an
“all-colored subdivision.” This turned out to be a threat to
the City as a result of the Council’s refusal to approve a
pay dump in that area. The Council did not take the threat
seriously, but it is an example of using the sale of
land to blacks as a threat.
In 1959, the Rondo neighborhood, a center of St. Paul's
black community, was razed for the construction of I-94.
In 1960, an incident in Morningside led the St. Louis Park
Ministerial Association subcommittee on fair housing to
issue a resolution deploring panic selling. The resolution
called for fair housing and equal rights for all citizens
and prospective citizens. That year, the minority population
in St. Louis Park was .5 percent, and the black population
Also in 1960, St. Paul picketers joined the NAACP in a
national boycott of Woolworth's until the company
desegregated its lunch counters.
Black members of the Minnesota Twins were forced to live in
segregated quarters during Spring Training in Orlando,
February 1963. Outrage ensued.
The May 16, 1963 Dispatch reported that Rabbi Sachs
of B'nai Abraham was one of 19 rabbis who went to
Birmingham, Alabama to support Martin Luther King and the
Southern Leadership Conference. The rabbis met with
members of the SLC in the Gaston Motel, which was later
bombed. The rabbis attended prayer meetings and "tried
to convey that American Jewery - and we hope all democratic
mankind - understands and supports the Negroes right to
human dignity." Rabbi Sachs called Dr. King "a true
decendant of Mahatma Ghandi."
In 1964, St. Paulite Roy Wilkins was named executive
director of the NAACP.
The mid-1960s were a time of racial violence, as city after
city experienced unrest. In 1964, many were injured in riots
in Philadelphia and Elizabeth, NJ. Protesters demonstrating
for civil rights disrupted the subways on opening day of the
New York World’s Fair.
In 1965, a group that was making noise was the
Society, founded in 1958 by Robert Welch. The Society was
opposed to the United Nations, the Supreme Court, and
accused former President Eisenhower and other government
leaders of being communists. In 1965, the St. Louis Park
Republican party publicly excluded any member of the John
Birch Society from taking office in the party. There were
two dissenting votes.
In March 1965, Dr. Fred Lyons, president of the St. Louis
Park Human Relations Council requested funds from the City
Council to accept an award at a conference of the National
Assembly on Progress in Equality of Opportunity in Housing,
to take place in Springfield, IL on March 18-20, 1965.
No action was taken.
In July 1965, 22 white Minnesotans traveled to Peach County,
Georgia to promote voter registration, education, and
“community benefit projects in general where Negroes earn
livings by picking peaches and pecans for a pittance (about
20 cents an hour).” The Dispatch declared that the
group “will be Negroes by sundown Saturday.” Their leader
was experienced civil rights worker Jack Mogelson, who was
living with his parents at 3152 Florida Ave. in St. Louis
Park. The project was called SCOPE: Summer Community
Organization Political Education. Participants were students
or graduates of the U of M.
Jack Mogelson was inspired to become a civil rights worker
while watching the funeral of three other rights workers who
had been killed in Mississippi. He dropped out of school and
became a freedom rider in Mississippi himself. He was an
organizer of the March on Selma, and then spearheaded the
1965 trip to Georgia. Jack did the lion’s share of the
fundraising for these activities. He met his wife Judy, a
nurse, on a picket line, and they moved into North
Minneapolis just as most of the whites in that neighborhood
were moving to the suburbs. He made his career as a Union
organizer, working with hospital, University, and public
employees. Jack died in about 2000.
In the 1960s, Phyllis Watson and another family from St.
George's Church sponsored 12 Cuban families, many of whom
moved to St. Louis Park.
On September 17-18, 1965, community leaders from nine
suburbs attended a Leadership Training Institute on Open
Occupancy, which was sponsored by the West Suburban Council
on Religion and Race. Mayors, police chiefs and
councilmen were invited to attend. The purpose was to
educate and stimulate community leaders to secure basic
rights for all people, particularly as it relates to housing
opportunities for minority groups. Residents were
refusing to sell their houses to members of minority groups,
supposedly because of the neighbors. Actions like
these led to the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 eliminated the
national origin quotas put into place by the Immigration Act
of 1924. The main impact of the Act was to create a shift in
traditional immigration patterns from the Western Hemisphere
by allowing residents of more countries to qualify for
admission to the U.S. Visa limits (available on a
first-come, first-served basis) were set at 170,000 per year
for immigrants from countries in the Eastern Hemisphere with
a per-country limit of 20,000 and 120,000 for immigrants
from countries in the Western Hemisphere with no per country
limit. The amendments also strengthened the preference given
to those with family members already established in the U.S.
who could serve as sponsors, and there was no limit to the
number of family reunification visas issued.
An April 1966 issue of Westwood Jr. High's newspaper the
Westwinds reported an essay contest sponsored by the Human
Relations Council of St. Louis Park. Roberta Gelt won
the contest with her essay, "If I were non-white, Would my
color be a Barrier to my Future?"
In September 1966, the local Young Republican League held a
forum around the topic Black Power, which was being espoused
by Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Co-Ordinating
Committee in Mississippi. Four African American
organizations were represented, with two coming down on the
side of Black Power and two espousing more conciliatory
methods. At the time, blacks were still referred to, at
least in the papers, as “Negroes.”
In an October 1966 interview with local band the Underbeats
in In-Beat magazine there is a telling paragraph:
"The group agreed that the rise of quality pop music
has revived this country's interest in rhythm and blues
but their interest is not desegregated. They
pointed out that, ironically, it is difficult for Negro
R and B bands to get jobs in the Twin Cities.
This, they said, was because many places in the Twin
Cities won't serve or hire Negroes. 'A lot of
really good Negro musicians can't even get in groups
because the group is afraid that if they take them, they
won't get jobs.'"
On July 19, 1967, racial unrest came close to home. Violence
erupted along Plymouth Avenue in Minneapolis. Crowds threw
rocks and set fires over two nights. The unrest started up
again, and Governor Harold LeVander called in 150 national
guardsmen. Three people were shot, two policemen and one
fireman injured, 34 arrests, and four businesses burned to
the ground. Appliance dealer Ben Koval made a hurried move
from Plymouth Avenue to St. Louis Park in the wake of the
Given the large Jewish community in the Park, acceptance of
every race, creed, and color has been a high priority. Park was the first in
the country to canvass local neighborhoods to promote an
open housing program, welcoming minority families on their
blocks. The City Council established a Human Rights
Commission, with seven members and one student. And in a show of
support for the riot-torn area, the Park voted to use the
Plymouth Avenue Branch of the First National Bank, located
in North Minneapolis, as one of its official depositories.
City Council minutes for July 1967 show that Fred A. Lyon of
the St. Louis Park Human Relations Council testified that
acts of discrimination had taken place in the City. He
stated that the Minnesota State Legislature had authorized a
Department of Human Rights, but it had not been established
In an article dated November 22, 1967 in the Dispatch,
City Manager Camille Andre estimated that (with no exact
figures available) "the city's population included about 30
percent Catholics, 25 percent Jews and the remainder
The December 13, 1967 issue of the Park High Echo
featured an article "Local Negro Indicates Racism in the
Park." The article was about
Dr. B. Robert Lewis's move to the Park. Dr. Lewis
was a veterinarian who took over
Dr. Fitch's practice. A petition was circulated
saying the presence of a black person would bring down home
values, but only one person signed it. Dr. Lewis noted
that the Fitch home and pet hospital were run down and he
actually improved home values by fixing them up. (The
property at 5700 Lake Street was later demolished.)
Dr. Lewis became a much-respected member of the community,
serving on the Park school board and in the State
legislature. At the time Lewis was one of 26 black
residents of the Park.
In 1968, Frankie L. Taylor sued the School Board for not
hiring him as a biology teacher because he was black. He
lost the suit and was ordered to pay court costs.
George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, and Clyde Bellecourt formed the American
Indian Movement in Minneapolis in 1968. The group was known
for occupying public buildings, including the vacant
Alcatraz Island outside of San Francisco.
On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair
Housing Act into law. The law prohibited:
1. Refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person
because of his race, color, religion or national origin.
People with disabilities and families with children were
added to the list of protected classes by the Fair Housing
Amendments Act of 1988.
2. Discrimination against a person in the terms, conditions
or privilege of the sale or rental of a dwelling.
3. Advertising the sale or rental of a dwelling indicating
preference of discrimination based on race, color, religion
or national origin (and, as of 1988, people with
disabilities and families with children.)
4. Coercing, threatening, intimidating, or interfering with
a person's enjoyment or exercise of housing rights based on
discriminatory reasons or retaliating against a person or
organization that aids or encourages the exercise or
enjoyment of fair housing rights.
Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
In April 1968, Rev. Robert Bardy of Westwood Lutheran
Church came before the City Council and urged it to
implement a nine point plan for the elimination of bias.
It required all City employees, contractors, depositories,
applicants for licenses and permits, and elected officials
to operate in accordance with fairness and equality.
The declaration called for affirmative action, low-income
housing, and changes in the comprehensive plan and zoning
ordinance. The proposal was passed by the Council on
April 21. In May, Bardy appeared before the School
Board with the same message. An article in the Park
High Echo by Steve Bob with the provocative title "White
Racism Must Go!" noted that the proposal was similar to one
put forward by Civilizing Communities, a group that included
many Park High students.
The May 8, 1968, Echo reported on a group called the
Civilizing Communities, which was to present a proposal to
eliminate white racism from textbooks and curriculum and to
provide courses on minority groups. The proposal also
called for education of school employees in race relations,
recruitment of minority teachers, statements from all
contractors that they do not discriminate, and a policy of
doing business with banks that provide at least 1 percent of
loan funds to minority individuals "regardless of whether
they are considered high risks."
The June 4, 1968 issue of the Park High Echo featured
an article entitled "White, Black Need New Education, Says
City Urban Affairs Director." Interviewed were Robert
Williams, Assistant Director of Minneapolis Urban Affairs
and B. Robert Lewis of the St. Louis Park School Board.
Dr. Lewis rejected the idea of bringing black children to
white schools as "phony," and advocated bringing black
teachers from Minneapolis to Park High for a year instead.
However, finding enough black teachers proved difficult.
Organizations such as Head Start, the Twin Cities
Opportunity Industrialization Center, and reading centers
were advocated to help "the racial situation."
Seniors in Ronald Allen's fall 1968 social studies classes
learned about minority problems, dividing study into the
categories of law, order, and justice; education; employment
and jobs; housing and welfare; protest movements; and
Students were excused for three days in January and February
1969 while Park High faculty attended minority workshops "to
give an introduction into the contributions and uniquenesses
of the Negroes, Orientals, Jews, and Indians." On
January 29, 1969, the Echo reported that the faculty
was "somewhat attentive" to Milton Williams, educational
director of The Way, speaking on black and white race
Fall 1969's Nature of Prejudice classes were taught by Mrs.
Lorraine Taylor. Tayor was a new teacher that year, with
experience working in ghetto schools and community
organizing in Chicago. The class visited the Red Lake
Indian Reservation to gain insight into the causes of
prejudice against Indians and possibly develop solutions to
the problem. Other groups studied were Jews, Negroes,
On October 7, 1968, it was proposed to the City Council that
a minority group subcommittee be formed of the Citizen's
In 1968, the City Council committed the Park to equal
opportunity in housing, employment, public services, public
accommodations, and education.
The Park High Echo reported that on January 20, 1969,
Milton Williams, educational director of The Way, spoke to
Park High faculty on "Race Problems." Reporter Sam
Stern wrote that Williams claimed that "educators have
helped create the problem of American racism [and] it is up
to the educational institution to undo the wrong."
Stern described the faculty audience as "somewhat
On November 18-22, 1969, Roger DeClerq directed the play
"And People All Around," which "centers around specific
events on the long road of trying to break down deep-rooted
feelings against Negroes in the South." DeClercq
explained, "It's the idea of freedom workers bucking-up
against prejudice and hatred for other Blacks." The
play was written in 1965 by George Sklar.
In December 1969, Walter R. Scott was selling his book
called “Minneapolis Negro Profile” which included photos of
black citizens in various professions, vocations,
businesses, jobs, and civic activities.
In 1969 there were 22 churches and synagogues in St. Louis
In 1969, Park High offered a "Nature of Prejudice" class
taught by Mrs. Lorraine Taylor. Principal Bertil
Johnson stated its goal as "to create a necessary
understanding of the minority cultures in this country."
The class studied the black, Jewish, Indian, and Asian
communities. In October, 50 students spent a day at
the Red Lake Indian Reservation asking questions of the
In November 1969 Park High's Drama Department presented the
play "And People All Around." The Echo reported that
the play highlights the martyrdom of the main character, Don
Tindall, whose life crumbles because of his outspoken
objections to bigotry. Bob Brill played the lead role.
The play was produced and directed by Roger DeClercq.
In 1970, David Williams, a black janitor at Jenning’s Red
Coach Inn and O’Toole’s, sued for harassment when his
coworkers peppered him with racial slurs and aggressive
behavior. Williams won $21,750.
In 1970 the minority population of St. Louis Park was 0.8
In January 1970, the School Board voted to change "Christmas
Vacation" to "Winter Vacation" and "Easter Vacation" to
"Spring Vacation." The change came about through a
request fromthe Social Action Committee of Westwood Lutheran
In March 1970, Archie Holmes of the State Department of
Education addressed the Human Relations Council of St. Louis
Park. The headline in the Sun was "Schools Must Deal
With Race as a Fact of Life." Holmes stated, "It
is difficult to teach people about minorities in a school
where there are little or no minority people. But those are
the places where it is really most important." He
urged his audience to examine the real estate system and
local industry, and get them to house and hire minority
The Park's Human Rights Commission was created by ordinance
in 1970. It consisted of 15 members. City
Council minutes show that one of its first actions was to
recommend the removal of the book Minnesota, Star of the
North from the library.
In December 1971, the school board issued guidelines
regarding the observance of religious holidays in schools.
The guidelines prohibited Christmas parties, Christmas
carols, Christmas trees, and Christmas presents. The
new rules were adopted in response to state guidelines set
the year before. Approximately 350 attended a heated
school board meeting in December. Some parents, including leader Donald
H. Wright, voiced "violent" opposition and threatened legal
action. The new guidelines stood for 1971, and a 15
member citizens' committee was set up
In June 1972, religious guidelines drawn up by a citizens'
committee were approved by the school board. The
guidelines were consistent with guidelines on Christmas that
were followed the previous year. Under the guidelines,
religious symbols such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees and
Easter eggs could only be displayed "as part of a broad
cultural study." Songs like "Santa Claus is Coming to
Town, "Here Comes Peter Cottontail," and "Dreydal, Dredal"
were considered religious and could not be sung, while
seasonal songs such as "Frosty the Snowman," "Jingle Bells,"
and "Winter Wonderland" were considered non-religious.
The citizens' committee included six lay Jews, six lay
Christians, a Unitarian, a rabbi, a priest, and a minister.
The 1972 population of St. Louis Park topped 51,000. This
included 89 negroes (as reported by the Sun in 1973), 107 Indians, 92 Japanese, 41 Chinese, 12
Filipino, and 35 other. The foreign-born population was 5.4
In 1973, Park High teachers Lee Smith and Wes Bodin began
offering a World Religions class. In a September 14,
1979 article in the Park High Echo, Smith said the
class is designed "to improve human relations, help kids
learn about the religious diversity of the world, develop
attitudes of understanding about their own beliefs and the
belief and practices of others." With grants from the
State Department and the Northwest Area Foundation, the
World Religions Curriculum Development Center was created.
Field testing of the curriculum involved 40 teachers and
5,000 students in eight states.
In September 1974, Thomas Properties, 4500 Excelsior Blvd.,
was successfully sued by Leon Williams for not renting
apartments to blacks, and for three months it was required
to advertise apartment openings in at least one weekly
newspaper serving the black community.
In 1975, $20,000 was awarded to Charles R. Lewis (Minnetonka
Blvd.) against the Micro Switch Branch of Honeywell, Edina.
His claims that he was paid less than other employees with
the same job, denied promotions, and denied desirable job
assignments were investigated by the Minnesota Department of
Human Rights. Honeywell settled before the case came to
In April 1975, students at Westwood Jr. High "had the
opportunity to hear and see a black poet, Mr. Roy McBride,
who read and discussed his poetry in classes on March 11,"
reported the Westwinds newspaper. It was during
a unit on Black Poetry in 8th Grade English class.
The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, passed
by Congress on May 24, 1975, provided funding for the
resettlement of Vietnamese, Lao, and Cambodian refugees who
had provided assistance to the Americans during the Vietnam
war. Refugees were processed through resettlement camps in
the Philippines and elsewhere, paired with sponsors in the
U.S., and provided with $300-500 resettlement grants.
In 1975 the first Khmer in Minnesota came from their native
Cambodia as refugees escaping the brutal communist regime,
the Khmer Rouge. By 2000, Minnesota could boast the sixth
largest Khmer community in the United States, with more than
In the years following America's involvement in the war in
Vietnam, the U.S. government and social services groups
began to assist Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese
refugees to resettle in the United States. The Hmong began
to arrive in Minnesota in 1976, and by the end of 1980
nearly 10,000 had settled in the Twin Cities - the nation's
largest urban Hmong community.
American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed in
In 1980, St. Louis Park was 97.9 percent white, with a
minority population of 2.1 percent. The February 6,
1980 issue of the Park High Echo featured an article by
Steve Roth that headlined "Influx of foreign students
creates need for English language class." It noted
that "Park has become a nicrocosm of America ..."
English as a Second Language classes had recently been added
to the curriculum, but was offered only one hour per day.
ESL teacher Lyle Gerard noted that he receives a new
Vietnamese student in his class every 3-4 weeks, as well as
an influx of Russian immigrants and foreign exchange
The Refugee Act of 1980 established U.S. policies for
refugees using the definition of refugee as established by
international law. Under this act a refugee is defined as
"any person unable or unwilling to return to his or her
country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of
persecution on account of race, religion, nationality,
membership in a particular social group, or political
In 1981, Pamela G. Alexander became the first
African-American female prosecutor in the Hennepin County
Attorney’s Office, and then set another precedent by
becoming the first African-American woman and the youngest
attorney to serve as a judge in Hennepin County, appointed by Governor Perpich in 1983. She became a
Hennepin County District Court Judge in 1986.
By the 1980s, an estimated 6 million undocumented aliens
were living in the U.S., most of them from Mexico.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed by
Congress in 1986 in an attempt to try and limit illegal
immigration to the United States. The law created penalties
for U.S. companies who hire undocumented workers and also
provided amnesty to illegal immigrants who had lived in the
U.S. since 1982, legalizing nearly 500,000 individuals.
In 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed, giving
tribes an economic boost.
The 1990 census asked people what their ancestry was, and
the big winner in St. Louis Park was German, which both the
Norwegian (2nd) and Swedish (4th) together couldn’t beat.
The city was 95.3 percent white, with a minority population
of 4.7 percent. This number includes 826 blacks living in
St. Louis Park. There were also 452 Hispanics.
In 1990, Carlos Mariani from St. Paul was the first Hispanic
elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The Immigration Act of 1990 contained changes to U.S.
immigration policy that temporarily raised the ceiling on
immigrants coming into the country to 700,000 per year for
three years, and to 650,000 per year thereafter. The law
favored family members of U.S. citizens, people who had
invested more than $1 million in U.S. business enterprises,
and while it did not address refugees specifically, it
granted special consideration to political refugees fleeing
government oppression in their homelands. It also held
special protection provisions status for illegal aliens who
would face hardship if deported back to countries where
dangerous living conditions prevailed. The act provided an
annual quota of 140,000 for immigrants whose job skills
would benefit the United States.
While a small number of Somalis came to settle in the
Northeastern United States in the 1920s, and others came to
study in the 1960s, a surge in Somali immigration occurred
in the 1990s as a result of decades of civil war, drought
and famine. According to the U.S. Office of Refugee
Resettlement, 55,036 Somali refugees came to the United
States between 1983 and 2004. The largest community of
Somalis chose to settle in Minnesota, attracted by
educational opportunities and by job prospects in the food
In 1992, former Viking Alan Page became the first African
American on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In 1990 Congress passed the the Tibetan Resettlement Act,
which provided special visas for 1,000 Tibetans living in
exile in India and other locations to resettle in America.
The first Tibetans came to Minnesota through this program in
1992, settling largely in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
In February of 1993, an organization called the United
Patriot Front appeared out of St. Paul. A flier against Jews
shows a microwave oven, with slogans “Jew Dwarfs! There is
an oven in YOUR future! Communism is Jewish! White America
Unite!! Our Race is our Nation.” The flier against blacks
shows two purported sketches of black men wanted by the
police. The flier cries “WARNING White Citizens Beware!
Black Crime Motivated by Pure Hatred for Whites!” There was
some speculation that the anti-Jewish fliers were related to
a bagel-throwing incident at a hockey game on January 9
between Cooper and Park, but the paper could not confirm
The St. Louis Park Human Rights Commission, originally chartered in the
1960s, was reactivated and expanded in 1992. Its big
project was a Human Rights Expo, held on February 21, 1993
at the High School. The Expo featured entertainment,
workshops, and exhibitors celebrating the diversity of St.
Louis Park and its commitment to combat prejudice. It had
unprecedented support by the City, allowing signs
advertising the event to be placed in places that were
otherwise off-limits. Co-chairs of the event were Pat Foulkes and Patrick Devine.
An attempted cross burning incident on the 5800 block of
Goodrich Ave. on November 12, 1993 shook the community. This
had never happened in St. Louis Park before. Police found a
scorched newspaper wrapped around the bottom of a homemade
wooden cross standing against the side of a garage. The
cross had the word “monster” positioned at the top.
Apparently the perpetrator had tried but failed to light it.
Five African Americans lived in the upstairs of the duplex
and a biracial family lived in the bottom. Community leaders
held a press conference on November 15 to “condemn hate
crimes and let the perpetrators know that bias crimes will
be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Confederation of the Somali Community in Minnesota was
founded in 1994.
Satveer Chaudhary was elected to the Minnesota House of
Representatives in 1996, the first member of the state
legislature of Asian Indian heritage, and was reelected in
1998. In 2000, Mr. Chaudhary became the first Asian Indian
state senator in American history. He was reelected in 2002
and 2006. Senator Chaudhary's parents immigrated to the U.S.
from India in the 1960s.
Ojibwe hunting, fishing, and harvesting rights were upheld
by the US Supreme Court in 1999.
The Karmel Mall, the first Somali mall in the United States,
opened in Minneapolis in 1999. The mall serves as meeting
place and recreational facility for the local Somali
community as much as it does a venue for commerce.
According to 2000 U.S. Census, 17,000 Asian Indians lived in
Minnesota. This was double the 1990 figure. The Census
also revealed that 172,000 Khmer lived in the United States,
with over 8,000 in Minnesota.
In January 2002, Mee Moua, a St. Paul attorney who came
to the U.S. as a refugee in 1978, became the first Hmong
American elected to a state legislature in 2002 when she was
elected Senator for District 67 on St. Paul's East Side. She
was reelected in November 2002 and in 2006, making her the
highest-ranked Hmong-American elected official in the U.S.
In 2002 the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS)
was reorganized as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Enforcement of immigration laws was transferred to U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
According to the Minneapolis Foundation, 1,000 Tibetans
lived in Minnesota in 2002, the second largest number of any
state, after New York.
In 2003, the U.S. stepped in to accept 15,000 Hmong refugees
for resettlement, to prevent their forced repatriation back
to Laos from their Thai refugee camp.
A new Hindu temple opened in Maple Grove, Minnesota in July,
2006. Construction of the building had begun in October,
2003, by which time the temple's membership had grown from
10 in 1973 to 130. The temple serves as a spiritual and
social center for the Twin Cities Hindu community.
In 2006, Representative Keith Ellison was elected the first
Muslim member of the U.S. Congress. Ellison represents
the 5th District of Minnesota, which includes St. Louis
Watt Munisotaram, the largest Cambodian Buddhist temple in
Minnesota and possibly in the U.S., opened in Hampton,
Minnesota in July, 2007. Construction of the temple had
begun in 2002.
The 2008 U.S. Census American Community Survey showed 2.5
million Asian Indians living in the United States, with
29,000 in Minnesota. The same survey showed 171,000
Hmong living in the United States. Of those, 46,000 lived in
Minnesota, the second most of any state, after California.
83,000 Somalis were found to be living in the United States,
with 27,000 in Minnesota. While the number of Khmer in
the United States had risen by 14,000 since 2000, to
186,000, the number of Khmer in Minnesota had dropped from
over 8,000 to 5,000.
In a November 2012 article in the Sun Sailor, Seth
Demographic information provided by the St. Louis
Park School District indicates the minority percentages
in St. Louis Park have increased district-wide from 14
percent in 1999 to 39 percent this fall. In that time,
the percentage of students who speak English as a second
language has increased from 3 percent to 9 percent while
the number of languages spoken at home district-wide has
risen from 30 to 44.
The percentage of Asian or Pacific Islander students
and American Indian students has remained fairly stable,
but the percentage of Hispanic students has increased
from 2 percent to 10 percent. The percentage of black
students has increased from 8 percent to 22 percent.
Meanwhile the percentage of white students has
decreased from 86 percent to 61 percent.
Statistics at St. Louis Park High School largely
mirror the district as a whole, with a slightly lower
percentage of Hispanic students – 7.5 percent – and a
slightly larger percentage of black students – 23
In 2008, Liberian immigrant and investment banker James
Sanigular of Shoreview founded Global African Foods, Inc. to
bring traditional African products into Minnesota grocery
stores. In October 2012, 17 Cub Food Stores, including
the one in St. Louis Park, began to carry the company's
products. See the story in the