Like the Mississippi River that flows through the Saint Paul Labor History mural, memory and place seem both obvious and elusive. This year’s Untold Stories series looks at how the struggles and stories that grow out of this small patch of Earth continue to connect us, affect us, and inspire us.
In celebration of labor history month each May, the Untold Stories series presents programs and talks on both local and national labor history topics. Past programs in the series have featured historian Robin D.G. Kelley, singer Larry Long, author Cheri Register, and walking tours by local historian Dave Riehle. The series received the 2003 John Sessions Memorial Award from the American Library Association for service to the labor community.
Pete Daniel – “Dispossession”
Tuesday, April 22, 7 pm
Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
Pete Daniel, a past president of the Organization of American Historians and a retired curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, kicks off the 16th annual Untold Stories Labor History series. Daniel will speak about his recent book Dispossession: Discrimination Against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights.
Between 1940 and 1974, the number of African American farmers fell from 681,790 to just 45,594—a drop of 93 percent. In this hard-hitting book, Daniel analyzes this decline and chronicles black farmers’ fierce struggles to remain on the land in the face of discrimination by bureaucrats in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After Daniel’s presentation, Pakou Hang from the Hmong American Farmers Association, and Dale Wiehoff from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, will talk about current struggles of small farmers to keep their land.
Co-sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
From Low Wage to Middle Class?
Monday, April 28, 7 pm
St. Paul Labor Centre, 411 Main St.
Workers in retail, home care, warehousing, the restaurant industry, and other parts of the modern economy are only the latest in a long line of employees rising up to claim that “working” and “poor” should never be in the same sentence. Tonight’s program examines how today’s workers are fighting to make a living in their service-sector jobs. It also shows how fields such as nursing and teaching turned their professions from low-wage jobs into middle-class careers.
The panel includes representatives from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Working America, Child Care Providers Together, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, and the Minnesota Nurses Association.
Bdote Memory Map
Wednesday, April 30, 7 pm
Rondo Community Outreach Library, 461 N. Dale St.
Mona Smith – a Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota storyteller and media artist – discusses her creation of a “memory map” of the bdote area of the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers. This bdote (a place where two waters come together) is central to Dakota spirituality and history. Her online map contains a series of sites that have special meaning to the Dakota people.
Central Corridor – Closing the Circle
Saturday, May 3, 1 pm
Union Depot, 214 4th St.
Ride the bus touring the Central Corridor, University Avenue, the vital link between St. Paul and Minneapolis then and now. Travel with rail and transit veterans Phil Epstein and Dave Riehle, and bus driver Diane Ruud as they take you to lost and forgotten places and routes, exploring the history of mass transit, architecture, commerce, and the communities central to this re-engineered corridor.
Please call The Friends at 651-222-3242 to reserve your seat on the bus, as space is limited. (Bus is ADA-compliant)
“Whiteness in Plain View”
Wednesday, May 7, 7 pm
Merriam Park Library, 1831 Marshall Ave.
Join author, professor and filmmaker Chad Montrie for an introduction to his new documentary project, “Whiteness in Plain View,” about racial exclusion in American towns and suburbs. He uses Edina and Austin, Minnesota as case studies, describing the circumstances of labor, housing, and race for African Americans. Following this film segment, Montrie discusses his research into the historical, legal, customary, and traditional practices among organized labor and business owners invested in keeping suburbs and towns all-white throughout most of the twentieth century.
A Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, in the past decade Montrie has published three books, including A People’s History of Environmentalism in the United States.
Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights
Monday, May 12, 7 pm
Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, 585 Fuller Ave.
The successes of the civil rights movement, including passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, were built on sustained grassroots organizing linked to Black trade unions, women’s groups, and churches across the country. University of Wisconsin Professor William P. Jones offers insight into the people who undertook this struggle in his book, The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights. His presentation will be complemented by music and related readings on race, class, and work.
Why Not St. Paul?
The 1934 Teamsters’ Strike
Wednesday, May 14, 7 pm
Merriam Park Library, 1831 Marshall Ave.
On the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Teamsters’ strikes in Minneapolis, historian Mary Lethert Wingerd will explore how different politics and labor relations in Saint Paul meant the bloody battle did not spread to the other side of the river, and what that suggests about class relations in the Capital City. She is the author of Claiming the City: Politics, Faith, and the Power of Place in Saint Paul and the Minnesota Book Award-winning North Country: the Making of Minnesota, as well as the introduction to the new edition of Charles R. Walker’s American City: A Rank-and-File History.
Untold Stories is coordinated by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit thefriends.org or call 651-222-3242. Co-sponsors include AFSCME Council 5, Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, East Side Freedom Library, Hmong American Farmers Association, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Metropolitan State University Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship, Micawber’s Books, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, Minnesota Historical Society, Ramsey County Historical Society, Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, Twin Cities Labor History Society, and the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service. This series is supported by an endowment created with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Saint Paul Foundation, as well as a gift from the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees Women’s Committee.
Cover image: “The St. Paul Labor Movement, Flowing out of Us,” Artists: Ta-Coumba Aiken, Keith Christensen.