Tag Archives: African American

Hayward and Effie McKerson

McKerson Image

Archival donations come to the museum through a variety of sources. This past spring the archive received a donation from Walker Methodist Care Center. Dr. Hayward McKerson had passed away in December 2017 and with no known surviving family members, the care center reached out to the archive to see if we had any interest in some of his photos and a few personal papers. The papers and photos of Hayward and his wife, Effie, share the story of an African American family that were active in their community and worked to stand up to discrimination faced by themselves and other African Americans.

Hayward grew up in Oklahoma, graduating from Douglass High School in Ardmore in June 1945. He served in the military for a time and attended Fisk University. He would ultimately become an engineer. Effie Stoker McKerson was born in Henderson, Texas in 1924 and she passed away in 2012. She was trained as a school teacher. Hayward and Effie settled in Edina in 1968, when a job transfer brought them to Minnesota. Eventually, he became the President of his own company, McKerson Chemical Corporation and Effie taught in the Edina Public School system.

The couple were very active in their community. They were both NAACP members and Hayward was active in the Elks and the Masons. Effie was active on the Edina Community Staff Advisory Council, the National Education Association, and Minnesota Education Associations. She also was very active in the Republican political party throughout the 1970s and 1980s. She served as a Minnesota delegate for President Ford to the 1976 National Republican Convention. And during the 1970s served as the Republican chairwoman for Minnesota. In 1975, she represented Minnesota on a trip to China, known as the U.S.-China Friendship Tour.

In 1982, Effie found herself in the middle of an affirmative action plan fight in the Edina public school district. Nine white elementary school teachers claimed they were “being laid off while a black teacher with less seniority” was able to keep her job. The teachers’ objections were with the affirmative action plan, which had been drafted by the school in the 1960s with the goal of recruiting more minority teachers. Eventually the controversy passed when some of the layoff teachers were rehired and other retired or resigned, and Effie continued to teach elementary school. Because of the controversy the school district adopted a new affirmative action plan.

The above photo of Hayward and Effie, in the middle, can be found in the McKerson Family collection in the Hennepin History Museum archives.

Sources:

“Edina teacher named to the HEW advisory panel.” Minneapolis Tribune. January 22, 1973.

“Margaret Morris Column.” Minneapolis Tribune. September 29, 1975.

“Teacher layoffs test Edina affirmative action plan.” Minneapolis Star Tribune. May 6, 1982.

“Budget backlash in Edina challenges school district’s affirmative action plan.” Minneapolis Star Tribune. May 13, 1982.

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Mu-So Choral Club

The Mu-So Choral Club, a Minneapolis-based choir of approximately 40 African American singers, depending on the year, was formed in 1917 and remained active through the 1920s. Members were drawn primarily from local church choirs, and the group was often considered to feature some of “best of the best” of local African American vocal talent.

The group performed at churches, benefits, and at public venues such as Minneapolis City Hall. In April 1923, the Mu-So Choral Club was the featured music of that week’s WLAG’s “Listenin’ in Radio News-Program.” The photo featured here, as well as the images below, come from our extensive historic radio, film, and theater program collection.

Never heard of radio station WLAG, “the call of the North”? WLAG, based out of the Oak Grove Hotel in Loring Park, Minneapolis, was only on the air from 1922 to 1924; soon afterwards, the Washburn Crosby Company took it over, renamed it WCCO, and the rest is, as they say, history.

WLAG cover photo

Mu-so choral club WLAG flyer 1923

From the Archives: 25th U.S. Infantry at Fort Snelling

Many people today have heard of the famous African American Buffalo Soldiers, but did you know that the Buffalo Soldiers were based here in Minnesota during the 1880s?

This photograph, part of Hennepin History Museum’s archival collection, shows a group of men from the 25th U.S. Infantry. The 25th Infantry was an African American regiment then based out of Fort Snelling. These soldiers were among the “Buffalo Soldiers,” a term referring to the United States’ segregated African American Army regiments. The soldiers shown here were musicians and NCOs (non-commissioned officers).

Army historians describe the time spent at Fort Snelling as “the most uneventful in the regiment’s history,” and suggest “the soldiers probably spent more time practicing, drilling, and parading than ever before.” Meanwhile, in contrast, Hennepin County was changing rapidly around the Fort; the city of Minneapolis was one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation during this period, and the downtown skyline was changing and expanding rapidly.

In 1888, the 25th was transferred from Minnesota to Montana.

In July 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 mandating the integration of the armed forces and promising “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”

Sources

Historic Fort Snelling 

“Buffalo Soldiers.HistoryNet 

Executive Order 9981

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, A Historic Context for the African American Military Experience. 1998.

Maggie Yancey’s 1881 Geology Book

In the late 1800s, Hennepin County was home to a population of African Americans who had moved north to find opportunity after the Civil War, along with those who had escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad. While many traveled north to Canada, some remained in Minnesota. Ellen and Beverly Yancey were a couple that settled in Edina and began developing close ties to the community, becoming involved in local politics and the church. Mae, one of their children, later studied at the University of Minnesota and played organ for the Episcopal congregation.

yancy-inscription

This week’s object is a geology book that once belonged to another one of Ellen and Beverly’s daughters, Maggie, in 1881. When Maggie owned this book, black families like the Yanceys lived and attended school alongside white families in Edina and Minneapolis. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that restrictive racial covenants began forcing Edina’s black community to move to other parts of the Twin Cities. Because these black families did not own the land they lived on, the residential districts created were able to effectively force them out. Edina was not alone in developing racial covenants designed to create segregation, and African Americans often struggled to find adequate housing and land without facing backlash from white citizens who feared their property values would decrease if their neighborhoods were integrated.

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This book owned by Maggie Yancey serves as an important connection between Hennepin county’s history and the many black pioneers and families that lived here, worked here, and—all too often—felt unwelcomed here. This book helps us recognize and honor the contributions that African Americans like Maggie Yancey and her family have made to Hennepin County despite the inequity and discrimination they have faced and continue to face today.

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Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student and comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.