Sumner Library celebrates 100 years in North Minneapolis

Attendees enjoyed music from James "Cornbread" Harris
Attendees enjoyed music from James “Cornbread” Harris
John "Cornbread" Harris
James “Cornbread” Harris entertaining the crowd






On Saturday, October 10, 2015, the Sumner Library, located at 611 Van White Blvd. in North Minneapolis, celebrated 100 years of service. It was a typical Saturday in terms of patrons who needed to use the library services. Yet, many took time away from their computer stations to check out the refreshment table of the cookies with “Celebrate 100 Years” written with colorful icing on top.

Scenes from Sumner Library's 100th anniversary celebration
Scenes from Sumner Library’s 100th anniversary celebration

The image when you walk in today is far different from the original 1915 snapshot of the library’s early years, when North Minneapolis was a predominately Jewish community. Sumner Library is now used by African Americans, Latinos, Somalis, Asians and Whites. The atmosphere was lively and upbeat with a Mariachi band playing traditional songs from Mexico in one corner of the building and Minneapolis music legend James “Cornbread” Harris in another corner attracting most of the attention while lighting up the keyboards.

Scenes from Sumner Library's 100th anniversary celebration
Scenes from Sumner Library ‘s 100th anniversary celebration

Harris was asked how he got his nickname, and he said it was from a song called “Cornbread” that he wrote. Two minutes later he broke out with the Cornbread song, and people were dancing in the library to the song.

There were eight different stations set up to tour for the event. A Lego display made from the original architect drawings was at one of the stations. At another was a mosaic with about 100 images from the Twin Cities area that included Nellie Stone Johnson, Gary Sudduth and one of Sumner’s favorite librarians, the late Ms. Grace Belton, who put Sumner on the map with her efforts to increase the amount of African American literature. Their collection has close to 5,000 books in that category.

Valerie Cuff and Jo Barney
Valerie Cuff and Jo Barney

Reaching each station and getting a stamp qualified participants to pick out a book of their choice. The afternoon was filled with fun, food, live music, lots of history, and reuniting of old friends. Childhood friends Valerie Cuff and Jo Barney (formerly Broadfoot) both used to come to Sumner in 1953, when they were around five or six years old. Cuff remembers playing and ice skating in the Sumner field. She also remembered how everyone knew each other without barriers or boundaries.


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