Ramsey County History Magazine Volume 57-2 Summer 2022

Volume 57, Number 2: Summer 2022

Traveling Without Aggravation: How Victor H. Green Changed Travel for Black Americans:
Green Book Locations in the Historic Rondo Community (1940-1956)
Author: Nieeta L. Presley
Traveling, especially with young families, is never easy. Scheduling, packing, locating gas stations, and securing reservations can be a challenge. Traveling for Black Americans during the Jim Crow era was especially difficult because many US businesses were far from welcoming. And so, residents in tight-knit African American communities were always aware when a prominent politician, famous musician, or even Aunt Betty from Louisville were passing through town. Their welcome mats were ready. Then, in 1936, Victor H. Green, a postal worker from Harlem, began publishing a reference book that invited subscribers to “travel without aggravation.” Known early on as The Negro Motorist Green Book, this invaluable resource provided listings for motels and travel homes, restaurants, service stations, and other establishments in nearly every state and a handful of countries. Between 1940 and 1956, nine businesses invited weary and wary travelers to St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. The construction of Interstate 94 in the 1950s and ’60s demolished nearly all these locations, but author Nieeta Presley scoured city directories and old newspaper articles and advertisements to uncover the histories of several of these venues, including Wilson Villa, G. & G. Barbecue, and the popular Jim’s Place—for here, travelers were always welcome.
PDF of N. Presley article

Bob Brown: “Paint What You See”
Author: Paul Nelson
This is the story of a solitary St. Paul resident named Bob Brown. Attempting to make a living in the midst of the Great Depression was difficult, to say the least, but Brown took long walks around the city, returned to his tiny studio, and then painted what he saw— the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Third Street, Central Library, Swede Hollow, and the local bar—a place where Brown spent much of his time when he wasn’t walking or painting. He gained some renown, earning recognition and a little money mostly through local exhibitions, and he found on-again, off-again love in the arms of Minneapolis-based author Meridel LeSueur. Few outside the art world remember Brown, and what became of nearly 300 of his paintings is today a bit of a mystery. Author Paul Nelson, with the help of LeSueur’s youngest daughter, Deborah LeSueur, has pieced together Brown’s story—painting a clearer picture, dispelling myths, and most importantly, sharing images of Brown’s unique work here in Ramsey County History, so that, perhaps, the talented artist will be forgotten no more.
PDF of P. Nelson article

All Hail Young Historians
Minnesota Represented at National History Day 2022
Everyone loves a good competition, including the Minnesota junior high and high school students whose thirty-six projects advanced from local, regional, and state levels all the way to the top—the National History Day national competition, which took place virtually this year in early June. Ten of those projects came from young historians in Ramsey County. Following the 2022 theme of “Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences,” nearly 1,700 entries from across the country and several nations were divided into eighteen categories. Scholars could write a research paper or create individual and group documentaries, performances, exhibits, or websites. Ramsey County Historical Society congratulates all of the participants and invites our readers to learn more about their fascinating research projects, including “Fight for Our Wilderness: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act,” a documentary by Abigail Peters from Roseville Area High School.
PDF of National History Day article

Addressing the “Trust Gap” Harming History in the Twin Cities
Author: Chad P. Roberts
Museum directors try to create institutions where everyone interested in and impacted by their institutions will be represented, welcomed, and engaged. However, following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, as museum staff worked to acquire, preserve, and exhibit the uprising art created by local artists, the absence of trust between the Twin Cities’ African American community and these mostly white-led organizations became clear. Since then, Ramsey County Historical Society (RCHS), along with other Minnesota museums have taken a deep dive to try to reconcile differences and strengthen relationships and trust by participating in the American Alliance of Museums’ nationwide Facing Change initiative. From this on-going commitment, four organizations—RCHS, Anoka County Historical Society, Dakota County Historical Society, and Hennepin History Museum, in partnership with local historians, created the Arthur C. McWatt Fellowship. The intent is to collaborate with African American communities, advance history projects, and identify a network of individuals and organizations engaged in preserving and presenting Black history in Minnesota. The first cohort—seven local multigenerational historians—recently completed the nineteen-week research program. Read about their important work here.
PDF of C. Roberts article