Brief American History
Starting from 1619, African Americans were first harmed by the emergence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade which resulted in the forcible removal of people of African descent from their ancestral homelands on the continent of Africa. In the United States, this initial crime against humanity was extended by the creation of a“race-based” system of black chattel slavery undergirded by a doctrine of White Supremacy. Slavery persisted until the end of the Civil War and its official abolishment with the adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1865. Even with three constitutional amendments and other legislation establishing equality for formerly enslaved people,
African Americans were relegated to second-class citizenship by economic, social, and political forces that denied them their newly won freedom and equal protection under the law. For example, practices like sharecropping, unfairly treating trivial offenses as felonies, convict labor leasing, Black codes, denial of the right to vote, Ku Klux Klan terror, and separate but equal laws reinstituted “slave-like” conditions. Throughout the 20th century, these practices continued evidenced by the adoption of restrictive covenants and later redlining to bar African Americans from homeownership to wanton violence in the form of race riots and spectacle lynchings. These were abetted by government policies and practices that facilitated segregation and contributed to inequality compounding the intergenerational harm suffered by African Americans in the areas of housing, education, unfair labor practices, a denial of voting rights, and access to places of public accommodation. While not all, it took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to alleviate some of these adversities - yet many disparities like the “over-policing”, which led to the unnecessary death of George Floyd and countless others, still exist to this day.
Slavery In Minnesota
According to MN Opedia: The Scotts were among the enslaved people taken by their army owners to Fort Snelling in the 1830s. The U.S. Army supported slavery thereby allowing its presence and paying a supplement to employ servants (including enslaved people) meaning the United States Army subsidized slavery at Fort Snelling U.S. Indian Agent Lawrence Taliaferro owned Harriet Robinson. Army Surgeon John Emerson, not previously a slave owner, purchased Dred Scott in St. Louis. According to MPR News Southerners were able to travel with their slaves to Minnesota because of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision which declared that, as property, slaves were not citizens and could not sue to win their freedom --- even in non-slaveholding states. However Black slaves were in Minnesota as early as 1819. When Fort Snelling was built in 1820, fur traders and officers at the post, including Colonel Josiah Snelling, used enslaved labor for cooking, cleaning, and other household chores. Although enslavers violated both the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the Missouri Compromise of 1820, an estimated 15 - 30 enslaved African Americans worked at Fort Snelling at any given time. Many U.S. Presidents owned slaves including one who was stationed at Fort Snelling. Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and was a slave owner. According to the Pioneer Press Born in Kentucky, Taylor had been a slave owner all his life and a majority of the officers in his 1st Infantry were Southerners, too. Of the 38 who served under Taylor, 33 officers owned slaves, Along with holding slaves at Fort Snelling when he was President Zachary Taylor was the last President to have slaves at the White House at one point Zachary Taylor owned over eighty slaves.
Slyvanus Lowry was a slaveowner from Kentucky who became the Mayor of Saint Cloud MN and started a pro-slavery newspaper called the Union. Other slave owners from the South would vacation in Minnesota and bring their slaves with them. Slaveowners from the South also made investments in Minnesota real estate and businesses with money they made from slavery. Many invested in insurance companies including Thomas Benjamin Winston. Author Christopher Lehman writes: Born in 1811 in Virginia, Thomas Benjamin Winston became a slaveholder in Louisiana before reaching the age of 30. In the early 1850s, he strategically bought and sold several enslaved people as financial investments. Winston left New Orleans for Minnesota in June 1855, less than half a year after his last slave sale. He arrived in St. Paul by August and immediately affiliated himself with the state’s power structure (through future governor) Alexander Ramsey. What they all had in common was wealth. Winston was now associated with Minnesota Territory’s most economically and politically powerful people. Winston joined a wave of investors, including his new associates, buying and selling real estate in the territory in the mid-1850s. He purchased one entire block and nine lots on various other blocks in Nicollet County and acquired 80 acres in the same winter. Mr. Winston encouraged other slaveowners to invest in Minnesota by running ads in newspapers in New Orleans. Even though slavery was supposedly outlawed in Minnesota there were still slaves in the state and wealth from slave owners helped build some of Minnesota's prestigious institutions.
Racial covenant laws restricted Black Americans from buying homes in certain neighborhoods in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. This contributed greatly to the racial disparities that exist between Blacks and whites in the state of Minnesota. Redling institutionalized racial covenants across the country. Racial covenants enriched white people and caused poverty for the majority of the Black community.
Homeownership is used to build generational wealth. There were thousands of mortages in Minnesota that had racial covenats thus restricting Black homeowners to buy houses in paticular area. This map shows Blacks were concentrated in certain neighborhoods and the property value was devalued through racist policies. These Racial covenants denied wealth building to Foundational Black Americans in The Twin Cities including Saint Paul and contribute to the disparities we see in Minnesota homeownership today.
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