MinneCulture celebrates Black History Month with features from our 10,000 Fresh Voices series.
1. Nellie Stone Johnson
Nellie Stone Johnson was born in 1905, with an ancestral mix of African-American, Native-American, and Euro-American heritage. She grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota, moved to Minneapolis, and by the late 1930s was one of the most influential forces in the state’s civil rights and labor movements. Nellie was the first women to serve on a national contract committee to negotiate equal pay for women, the first woman vice-president of the Minnesota Culinary Council, the first woman vice-president of the Local 665 Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, and the first African-American elected to citywide office in Minneapolis, when she won a seat on the Library Board in 1945. In the 1940s she spearheaded the drive to create the Minneapolis Fair Employment Practices department, which was the first of its kind in the nation. Nellie was also was an adviser to Minneapolis mayor Hubert Humphrey, and a founding member of the committee that worked out a merger between the Farmer-Labor Party and the Democratic Party—today’s DFL. She urged feminist groups to include women of color in the ERA fight, and was an activist with the NAACP for more than 60 years. Her political activism continued right up to her death in 2002 at the age of 96. The “Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship” was founded in 1989, and is awarded annually to minority students from union families. Produced for KFAI by Dixie Treichel. Oral history materials of an interview with Nellie Stone Johnson in 1975 provided courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, with assistance from Ryan Barland.
2. “Clarence “Cap” Wigington”:http://www.ampers.org/pieces/clarence-cap-wigington
Clarence “Cap” Wigington was the nation’s first Black municipal architect, and a senior designer for the city of St. Paul for 34 years. Sixty of his buildings in Minnesota’s capitol city are on the historical registry, including the Highland Park Water Tower. KFAI producer Will Wright talks to biographer David Taylor about the architectural legacy of Cap Wigington.
3. Author and filmmaker David Grant
David Grant is a Twin Cities-based screenwriter and playwright. He’s been commissioned by the Minnesota Historical Society, Mixed Blood Theater and the Great American History Theatre, and is a recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board fellowship. He’s written drama for Twin Cities Public Television, HBO New York and Showtime. His recent travel memoir traces his ancestry to Ghana, Africa. Grant is currently writing a young adult novel about Abraham Lincoln. KFAI’s Cyn Collins has the story.
4. Louis Alemayehu: Poet, Musician, Community Elder
Louis Alemayehu is a poet, musician, educator and community elder. Born in Chicago of African and Native heritage, he developed artistically during the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s. Now a Minnesota resident, Louis is a founding member of Twin Cities music group Ancestor Energy—a group he’s performed with for more than 25 years. KFAI producer Dixie Treichel has more.
5. Chemist Jeannette Brown
Jeannette Brown was the first African-American woman to earn a Masters degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota. She spoke to KFAI producer Will Wright about her experience at the U of M in the 1950s, and her book, “African American Women Chemists.”