African American Philanthropy in the Twin Cities: The Saint Paul Urban League
In April 2015, I and another member of the Adam Matthew team embarked on a three-week trip to the Midwest of the United States. Our first stop was the â€˜Flour Milling Capital of the Worldâ€™ â€“ Minneapolis and its twin city, Saint Paul.
A love of all things Gilded Age resulted in a visit to the James H. Hill House in Saint Paulâ€™s prestigious Summit Avenue, claimed by some to be the most beautiful residential street in the US. As we hopped off the metro and made our way towards the Railroad Tycoonâ€™s mansion, I stumbled across a single-storey building emblazoned with the words â€˜Saint Paul Urban Leagueâ€™. Having worked with the â€˜National Urban Leagueâ€™ and â€˜Chicago Urban Leagueâ€™ papers for our forthcoming resource African American Communities (publishing in Autumn 2015), the building was immediately familiar.
Founded in 1923, thirteen years after the National Urban League (formerly known as the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes), the Saint Paul Urban League emerged in response to African-American migration to the city from the Deep South (part of what is now called â€˜The Great Migrationâ€™) and the racial discrimination that African Americans encountered in employment and housing. Indeed, when the organisation was established it faced a great deal of criticism from local white business associations â€“ they feared it would encourage further African-American migration to the city. Fortunately, such criticisms were overlooked and the Urban Leagueâ€™s activities flourished for the remainder of the twentieth century. Sadly, a lack of funding in recent years has put the organisation in financial jeopardy (in 2012, for instance, the headquarters for the Saint Paul branch had been vacant for months, and the building fell into disrepair) and its future currently looks uncertain.
Heading of the Saint Paul Urban League newsletter from December 1968. Image Â© University of Illinois at Chicago Library, Special Collections. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Today, more than 100 local branches of the National Urban League can be found across the United States and the story of the Saint Paul Urban League forms just one aspect of the history of this national organisation that can be discovered in Adam Matthewâ€™s forthcoming resource African American Communities.*
*Full access restricted to authenticated academic institutions who have purchased a license.