Experience local Black history

With Black History Month in full swing, our hearts and minds have been reflecting on the contributions of prominent and courageous African American women and men who dared to have a transformational impact on the world around them. Selma, the Washington Monument Mall, and Birmingham are a few places that come to mind.

But, if you don’t live in or near those places, there are many ways to appreciate Black history right here in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis and St. Paul are chock full of art, food and adventures to experience the history of those who have gone before us, current trailblazers and those who still keep our hope alive.

Consider the following collection a historical taste of Black history in the Twin Cities!

(l-r) Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society; The MSR building in 1958.

Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder Newspaper (MSR) I must start this tribute to local Black history by acknowledging the legacy of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR). For 84 years, the MSR has consistently told the real history of Black Americans. For this reason, I encourage you to visit a living legacy of printed Black history in our own backyard.

MSR is located at 3744 4th Ave. South in Minneapolis. For more info, go here.

Phyllis Wheatley Community Center

When I think of the phrase “for us, by us,” I think of the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center (PWCC). Built in honor of Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American poet, the center was the first point of contact for many Black residents — long before community and human services organizations were available to meet the needs of Black people in the Twin Cities. At the height of segregation, the center was a place of learning and a place to meet and socialize.
PWCC is located at 1301 N. 10th Ave. in North Minneapolis. For more info, visit phylliswheatley.org.

Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue
The delicious aroma of Ted Cook’s barbecue saturates the surrounding area, especially in summer months. Its unmistakable aroma along 38th Street beckons you to stop, look and taste! This Black-owned restaurant has been around since 1968 offering up ribs, hojos potatoes, cornbread and more! Good food brings the whole community together, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Ted Cook’s is located at 2814 E. 38th St. in South Minneapoli

Sabathani Community Center
Sabathani Community Center continues to be a beacon for community support in South Minneapolis. Visit Sabathani’s community room to view an extensive mix of tributes and memorabilia of community heroes and leaders. Then, venture downstairs to its food shelf and clothing boutique and see how this organization has been meeting basic needs of South Minneapolis communities since 1966. What I find intriguing is how Sabathani provides qualifying community residents with a grocery store experience and shopping mall experience in one location, free of charge.
Sabathani Community Center is located at 310 E. 38th St. in South Minneapolis. For more info, visit sabathani.org.

Givens Collection of African American Literature
If you love to read and have a thirst for rare African American literature, stop by the University of Minnesota’s Elmer L. Andersen Library in Minneapolis to explore the Givens Collection of African American Literature.

Named after Black entrepreneur Archie Givens, Sr., the collection is home to over 250 years of African American and continental African culture, with over 10,000 books, magazines, and pamphlets by or about African Americans and tens of thousands of archival materials documenting Minnesota’s Black history — including Penumbra Theatre Company Archives. The Givens Collection is an invaluable community and scholarly resource.
The Givens Collection is located in the Elmer L. Andersen Library, 222 21st Ave. South, Suite 213, in Minneapolis. For more info, visit lib.umn.edu/givens.

Penumbra Theatre
Years ago, my husband and I attended a one-man play based on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Penumbra Theatre. That was my first experience attending a theatrical performance by an African American theater company.

From that stunning experience, I knew that I had to return to this place for more. Since 1976, Penumbra Theatre has served as a pillar for storytelling in the Twin Cities and offers something for theatergoers of all ages, including kids. It is one of only three professional Black theaters in the nation — and the only one in Minnesota.
Penumbra Theatre is located at 270 North Kent Street in Saint Paul. For more info, visit penumbratheatre.org.

Fort Snelling
Few know that former slave Dred Scott lived for about a year in St. Paul in 1837, which was then a free territory of Wisconsin. There, he met and married his wife, Harriet Robinson. Living here served as the foundation for his historic lawsuit (Scott v. Sandford) to buy his freedom after living in a free state.

Dred and Harriet Scott’s restored quarters at Fort Snelling //
Wikimedia Commons

Though he lost the case, it became a historic marker that divided the nation over slavery and served as a catalyst for the American Civil War. Scott was eventually freed in 1857.
Historic Fort Snelling is located at the junction of Minnesota Highways 5 and 55. For more info, visit mnhs.org/fortsnelling/learn/african-americans.