St. Cloud Times’ history as The Union

 

St. Cloud
St. Cloud

According to long denied but sudden grudging admissions from the St. Cloud Times, community pride-filled racism has become embarrassing, expensive and explosive. After promoting slavery, ignoring “sun-down town” conditions, limitations on Black St. Cloud State students and other obvious examples of racism for 158 years, the hometown newspaper suddenly realizes racism’s high costs. (“Protests aren’t bringing solutions, only strife;” editorial, St. Cloud Times, August 9, 2015)

St. Cloud’s unabashed racism has attracted enough attention from Minnesota ethnic councils, federal agencies, independent study groups and national news sources to be considered the state’s most racially volatile community. Support for St. Cloud’s pathological racism originated with the Times.

Today’s St. Cloud Times began as Minnesota’s first and only proslavery propaganda rag deceptively called The Union. Its publisher, Sylanvus Lowry, was St. Cloud’s best boy, first mayor, illegal slave holder and political conniver. Lowry and Confederate relatives fled Kentucky to escape impending civil war. They smuggled slaves up the Mississippi River at night defying Minnesota’s “Free State” status and Constitution.

Abolitionist Jane Grey Swisshelm exposed the illegal slaves. In retaliation, Lowry’s “Committee of Vigilance” destroyed her printing press. When Minnesota troops entered the Civil War, St. Cloud’s slaves were freed and The Union was renamed St. Cloud Daily Times, then later (circa, 1990), the St. Cloud Times.

Since St. Cloud has always been considered one of Minnesota’s more insignificant communities culturally, economically and politically, the combination of defensive insularity yet desperate community promotion was adopted by the St. Cloud Times. Objective journalism, using the term with ridicule, is avoided as much as possible since the community is often criticized by outsiders. (“St. Cloud’s history of friction with outsiders;” Minnesota Public Radio, July 7, 2010; “Whites only?” Diverse Issues in Higher Education, December 8, 2011)

Although the St. Cloud Times, mentioned a study of local racism initiated by the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change, the studies scathing findings were carefully ignored. (“Institute to study area’s race efforts;” St. Cloud Times, May 30, 2008) “Conclusions: Saint Cloud, MN, a historically White urban hub surrounded by farm communities, saw an influx of residents of color during the 1980s due to demographic shifts in migration. It subsequently experienced one of the state’s highest rates of hate crimes.”

Similarly ignored by City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, three public relations agencies, SCSU, various area economic development groups and the St. Cloud Times were damning criticisms by Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute. (“Shining the Light: Revealing choice in the St. Cloud region;” Ohio State University, Kirwan Institute, September 2010) The St. Cloud Times covers St. Cloud racism cautiously and reluctantly. Embarrassing City Hall, local politicians and SCSU, however documented and guilty, are reporting no-no’s.

Other St. Cloud Times avoidances include: (1) SCSU’s suspiciously complicated, convoluted and highly guarded Black student graduation rates (the opinions editor claimed that, since “everybody spins the numbers,” no reports result; and (2) one would think periodic surveys concerning local racial hostilities would be expected.

 

Myrle Cooper is retired from SCSU but continues to closely monitor racism and expose a community resisting change. He welcomes reader responses to kobenhavnk@yahoo.com.