States

Minnesota: A Great Migration Destination

African Americans have lived in Minnesota since the early 1800s. Some were enslaved laborers, brought by fur traders, traveling Southerners, and military officers at Fort Snelling. Notably, Dred Scott married Harriet Robinson at the fort. Others arrived as freed people. The first African American child born in St. Anthony (which later became Minneapolis) was Toussaint L’Ouverture Grey, born to Emily and Ralph Grey in 1859. The oldest Black congregation in Minnesota—St. James AME—was established soon after in 1863. The Black population grew slowly, remaining below 1 percent for many years. However, it increased dramatically by over 1500 percent between 1950 and 1970 due to the Great Migration, during which time The Green Book was in print. Today, African immigrants and African Americans comprise over 7 percent of the state’s population.

As the two largest cities in the state, Minneapolis and St. Paul featured the highest number of Green Book listings. However, listings were also found in Rochester, Winona, St. Cloud, and Duluth (all moderately sized cities) and a few small towns in central Minnesota, due to the tourism industry around the lakes. As in many other American cities, African Americans in Minneapolis and St. Paul encountered redlining, restrictive housing covenants, discrimination, and de facto segregation. These policies significantly limited what neighborhoods they could live in and what hotels they could stay or work in, giving rise to labor movements and community activism.

Less than a quarter of The Green Book sites in Minnesota remain standing. The majority of demolitions in Minneapolis and St. Paul resulted from the construction of Interstate 94, which cut through the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul and parts of north Minneapolis, and the construction of Interstate 35W through the heart of a thriving African American community in south Minneapolis. Urban renewal initiatives also resulted in large-scale clearance of African American-owned and -occupied dwellings, displacement, and the construction of public housing projects. Historical aerial photographs underscore significant changes to the built environment from the 1950s to the 1970s.

There are three listings that remain the same establishment as they were when the Green Book was published: the Hotel St. Paul/St. Paul Hotel, the Lexington Restaurant, and Lindey’s Steak House (second location). A few of the motel/hotels still operate as such under different names or are residential. Otherwise, the remaining extant buildings have changed hands and often uses.

TitleNumber of Establishments

Arkansas

0

Maryland

101

Minnesota

88

New Jersey

0

New York

1622

Rhode Island

26

Virginia

311