Too often, then and now, Black Minnesotans and their contributions to society locally and nationally are overlooked. The late Walter R. Scott, a transplant from Chicago, instead took it upon himself, with the help of others, to do something about that.
Scott released Minnesota’s Black Community,a 216-page hardback publication that featured Blacks in all walks of life, during this country’s bicentennial year, 1976. He wrote in its afterword that the book at the time served as “a bird’s eye view at some of the Black people in Minnesota.”
“It is unfair to the nearly 50,000 Blacks now living in Minnesota to hide their historical link to the state,” said Scott in his Publisher’s Statement. “It is equally a disservice to White Minnesotans who are anxious to know more about their fellow Black citizens.”
Born in Greenville, Miss. Scott grew up in Chicago and moved to Minneapolis in the late 1940s. “He knew everybody,” says son Anthony Scott of his father’s popularity. “Everywhere he went, he could talk to anybody at any time. Everybody liked him and could relate to him. He met everybody at their level.”
Anthony’s brother George adds that his father “took me around a lot of places” when he was a youngster, some of which may have been part of the information-gathering required to assemble the hundreds of profiles and photos in Minnesota’s Black Community.
Walter Scott used, with permission, Minnesota Historical Society photographs and information and employed local Black photographers such as Charles Chamblis and Ronnie Lloyd to capture local Blacks in 16 fields of endeavor for the book, which was one of four that he published. All was virtually done as a one-man operation out of his home while he also worked full-time, explains Anthony Scott.
“He was hands-on on every aspect of it,” Anthony says of his father, who died in 2001 at age 72. “He pursued it as his full-time thing.”
George Scott recalls that his father showed him how he put the book together by folding a sheet of paper into “squares, and numbering them a certain way.”
Anthony Scott II, Scott’s grandson, remembers seeing his grandfather’s basement doubling as a publication workroom. “I would go down there, and he said, ‘Cut this picture out… See the glue? Get the glue and put it right here.’ I was the original cut-and-paste guy. He was like a machine,” recalls Anthony.
“The point he was trying to prove” was that Blacks in Minnesota were indeed productive citizens in all aspects of life, explains Scott’s daughter Chaunda. “I knew he worked long hours outside work hours on it. For him being a Black man at that time trying to do an effort such as this, I’m sure he ran into many closed doors, but with persistence he would open the closed doors.”
Scott’s book encouraged Chaunda as a youngster “to do [jobs] like people in the book,” which was organized by various careers and occupations. “He was a great writer,” she notes on her father’s comments that accompany the photographs used in the book.
The family believes that at least 5,000 copies of their father’s book were published and sold. “They serve as great historical resource books that shine the light on the contributions of Minnesota’s Black community,” says Walter Scott, Jr.
“I think he emphasized the picture aspect, capturing people doing something. He called the books ‘a pictorial resume of the Black community,’” according to Anthony Scott.
Finally, the Scott family members proudly point out that their father and grandfather saw his work as “his mission.” His grandson Bryson Scott says, “I know that my grandfather’s books were very important to him.” The family is currently planning to continue the work of the senior Walter Scott by compiling more up-to-date information on Minnesota’s African American community.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.