by Alicia Eler via startribune.com
A reproduction of a 19th-century purple dress with white lace collar is positioned on a stand, as if waiting for its owner to slide it on. A copy of the Green Book, an historic guide that helped steer travelers toward black-welcoming businesses, is gently perched under a glass case. Large panels explaining the history of African-Americans in Minnesota stand in front of floor-to-ceiling windows.
This isn’t a scene from the Minnesota History Center or even the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It is the new Minnesota African American Heritage Museum & Gallery in north Minneapolis.
Co-founded by civil rights attorney Tina Burnside and writer/education administrator Coventry Cowens, the museum addresses a long-standing gap in the Twin Cities. “Minnesota is one of the few states that does not have a museum dedicated to the African-American people in the state,” said Burnside.
For 30 years there have been repeated attempts to remedy that. Why has it taken so long? “I couldn’t tell you why,” she said. “Perhaps it’s a question for the people of Minnesota.”
The museum is entirely volunteer-run. At its soft opening Sept. 8, more than 200 people packed into the spacious fourth-floor gallery it shares with Copeland Art and Training Center in the new Thor Construction headquarters at Penn and Plymouth avenues N.
Like a mini-history center, it is similar to places like the Hennepin History Museum or the Somali Museum of Minnesota. Parking and admission are free.
The inaugural exhibition, “Unbreakable: Celebrating the Resilience of African Americans in Minnesota,” which runs through December, focuses on early settlers in the 1800s, black female heroes, the Great Migration from the South, and war veterans who fought abroad yet faced racism at home. Exhibitions will rotate every three to four months. The next one, opening in January, will focus on the civil rights movement in Minnesota before the 1960s, with a focus on the development of the NAACP in the Twin Cities and Duluth in the early 1900s.
While Chicago was a major destination on the Great Migration north, some continued on to Minnesota. A 2017 census report put the black share of Minnesota’s population at 6.5 percent, about half as much as Illinois. Continue reading “Minnesota Finally Gets an African-American Museum Thanks to Co-Founders Tina Burnside and Coventry Cowens”