Leola Seals

MSR News Online/MSR News Online

March 13, 1949 – November 19, 2019

Leola Seals was born in Natchez, Mississippi and was a graduate of Alcorn State University.

She left behind her spouse Allen Winston, brothers Arthur Seals and Charles Seals, and sisters Lois Scott, Eva Love, and Ethel Rhines. She is survived by her children, daughters Melody Lehmke and Europonda Stone, and sons Nikita Stone, Kenyatta Stone, and Antre Stone.

Leola was a graduate of Alcorn State University. She came to Minneapolis in the early 1980s where she worked for General Mills. She eventually settled into a career in property management.

However, Leola was best known for her activism.

It was well-known that Leola “didn’t take anything off anybody” as the saying goes, and she had a low tolerance for injustice wherever she encountered it.

Many remember her stint as the president of the Minneapolis NAACP from 1996 to 1998. During her tenure, she advocated for fair and affordable housing and opposed efforts to gentrify the Northside of Minneapolis. She also opposed the implementation of Minneapolis police’s CODEFOR program, the Minneapolis version of “stop and frisk.”  

Leola also helped orchestrate a lawsuit against the Minneapolis school board in which the organization advocated for a desegregation plan that would include the suburbs. Her reelection campaign was contentious as the old guard Black gatekeepers opposed her tactics which included protesting and picketing.

She was ousted in a contentious struggle between the so-called old guard and the progressive and more radical folks who supported Leola’s more activist-oriented NAACP.

Leola opened the first African American history museum in Minneapolis in 2005, which featured a lot of artifacts from the Jim Crow era and included pictures of the lynchings in Duluth at the turn of the last century.

Leola moved back to Natchez several years ago but continued her activism between bouts of medical problems. As late as 2017, she organized a picket at the Natchez City Hall.

“No one she encountered didn’t know how she felt about them. She told it like it was but she cared about everyone. She worked to make things better not just for herself but for everyone,” said her daughter. “Being her daughter was exciting and exhausting at the same time.”

Leola Seals’ funeral was held at the West Gate Funeral Home in Natchez, Mississippi on November 27.