Now open at Hennepin History Museum – ‘Human Toll: A Public History of 35W’

Courtesy of Hennepin History Museum

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A new exhibit at Hennepin History Museum explores community resistance and resilience and illustrates how freeway construction destroyed and divided Black communities across the United States, amplifying the effects of systemic racism still felt today.

With photographs, maps, oral histories, and archival documents, “Human Toll: A Public History of 35Wfeatures the experiences of Black residents of South Minneapolis by exploring stories about displacement, housing discrimination, neighborhood division and environmental justice. 

Sharon Sayles Belton, who was interviewed for the project, revealed the impact of the construction on 35W: “The frustration and the anger that older South Minneapolis residents who lived through watching their friends and neighbors sell their homes, watching the houses being torn down, those are experiences and memories that the older people never forgot.” 

Community-collaborative Project 

Human Toll was developed over two years through a community-collaborative research project. A diverse team of South Minneapolis community members and advisors worked with students and faculty of the University of Minnesota’s Heritage Studies and Public History (HSPH) graduate program under the co-direction of Greg Donofrio and Denise Pike. 

Donofrio, who is an associate professor at the University and a faculty advisor in the HSPH program, worked with Pike when, as a graduate student, she co-curated “Owning Up: Racism and Housing in Minneapolis,” which was exhibited at the museum in 2018 and is now on display at the Sabathani Center. 

Hennepin History Museum is pleased to present this series of exhibits that interpret the past from fresh perspectives and tell stories that were previously overlooked or misrepresented. A third exhibit in this series, “Separate Not Equal,” will commemorate the Hale and Field School pairing fifty years ago that sparked desegregation efforts throughout the rest of the district. That exhibit is currently in develop ment and scheduled to be open in early 2022. 

Free Museum Admission Through End of the Year 

With the generous support of North Bay Companies, we are excited to offer free admission to Hennepin History Museum for the remainder of 2021. At this time visiting the museum requires the use of stairs, but we are pleased to be able to extend access to the museum regardless of ability to pay. Additionally, the museum will also offer both online and in-person events to deepen the understanding of systemic racism in Hennepin County. 

Hennepin History Museum brings the diverse history of Hennepin County to life and helps people understand their world through an exploration of local history with exhibits, public programs, a magazine, and a public research library. 

Now more than ever, people are seeking to understand the role that past events and decisions played in shaping the world we are challenged with today. Hennepin History Museum is proud to contribute to a broader community understanding of our shared history and is excited to welcome new audiences into the conversation. Please visit and tell us your story! 

The Hennepin History Museum  is located at 2303 Third Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55404. Find more info at hennepinhistory.org .

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