St. Paul’s oldest African American neighborhood is named after French Canadian fur trader Joseph Rondeau. After the civil war and during the reconstruction period in the south, many African Americans sought a better life and moved north. Some arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota, where jobs in the railroad and lumber industries were plentiful.
Starting a new life on Rondo Avenue, residents were entrepreneurs, opening businesses and catering to the local community. Bonds were formed and frienships developed. A tight-knit neighborhood committed to education and opportunity evolved. Families cared for themselves and each other.
Then in the 1960s, construction of Interstate 94 divided Rondo—shattering the community and displacing thousands of African Americans into a racially segregated city and discriminatory housing market. The highway radically changed the landscape, and erased a now-legendary neighborhood.
Rondo still exists and its persistence and growth are celebrated through events like Rondo Days and the Jazz Festival.
KFAI producer Allison Herrera explores this legendary community in an audio documentary, The History of Rondo, airing Wed, Feb 19, at 7:30pm on MinneCulure.