Minneapolis, Yesterday, Today, and the Continuous Disparity of History

By Matt Johnson

Imagine that each article is a piece of the puzzle to a 10,000 piece puzzle set. I know! Ouch! Indeed, this is a challenge. However, each time an article is published, we get closer and closer to a systems model we can use.

Matt Johnson, Author of Urban Dynamics and Systems Scientist
Matt Johnson, Author of Urban Dynamics and Systems Scientist

In this puzzle piece, we will be looking  back into Minnesota history. Although we haven’t used it much, history is an important part of our analysis and it will give us valuable insight into the origins and potentially some of the current dynamics of the General Minneapolis System (GMS) and its subsystems. The book that we will be referencing is called African Americans in Minnesota by David Vassar Taylor and Bill Holm. It will indeed provide us with some worthwhile insights.

Here are four points of interests, and quotes, I found in the book that I believe are still challenges in today’s Minneapolis, and St. Paul.

Political Promises and Opportunities

To meet the demands of a wartime economy, recruiters scoured the South for blacks willing to move to northern industrial centers in return for promises of free transportation, higher wages, and a better standard of living.

Marriage, Employment (Types of Jobs), and Homeownership

Only 44% of eligible black Minneapolis males over the age of 15 were married in 1910. Similar employment and homeownership patterns also existed. Men worked as porters, waiters, cooks, and janitors in hotels, restaurants, jobbing houses, and on railroad lines, while black women worked as personal or domestic servants. By 1910, 75.3% of the dwelling units occupied by black people in Minneapolis were rented.

The American Dream and Wages

Black people of Minneapolis and St. Paul had never fully participated in the prosperity of the 1920’s. (As early as 1919, it was estimated that the median wage of a black male head of household in the Twin Cities was only $22.55 per week at a time when the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics regarded $43.51 per week as the amount necessary for a family of five.)

Government Sanctioned Partitioning, i.e., Redlining

By 1920 restrictive housing covenants were being used extensively to contain and isolate blacks of both cities. As a result, ghettos emerged.

Although this is a world that once existed, we have seen from the data published on this site that the median household income for “blacks” in Minneapolis, and specifically in certain wards, is still lower on average than those of “whites.” Secondly, there are still disparities between the type of industries and the number of “blacks” and “whites” that work in those industries such as finance, science and technology, and business ownership.

Thirdly, although redlining has been illegal for sometime now in the United States, the consequences of such policies can still be seen and felt. Make no mistake, “black” neighborhoods and “white” neighborhoods are still salient in the minds of all Americans, and they are real.

The open and completely visible secret is that America is still fairly segregated today. It’s segregation ranges from neighborhoods to organizations to churches to entertainment. And finally, aren’t economic, educational, political, and social promises still made to “black” Americans?

For further reading on similar subject matter, I invite you to read The New York Times, The Systems Scientist, and the 2014 Annual Crime RateThe Simple Behaviors of Cities, The General System of Minneapolis: ForeclosuresForeclosure Rates: Wards 2, 4, and 5 from 2006 to 2015 and Patterns of the 5th Ward: “Race”.

Remember, you are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated.



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