Segregated Student Housing and the Activists Who Defeated It

The number of African Americans in Minnesota nearly doubled between 1900 and 1920, with the majority of those 9,000 people settling in the Twin Cities. The states from which most African Americans hailed at the end of the 19th century were eastern and midwestern, not southern. It was not until the 1940s that there was a significant increase of the population, to 14,000 people, not even one percent of the state’s population.

African American employment in Minnesota in the 1920s reflected national trends. Clustered in domestic and personal services such as barbers, janitors and servants, not even two percent of men and women worked in professions such as acting, law, clergy, and medicine. Poverty level wages for workers made home ownership nearly impossible, and the ability to create any savings or investments out of reach. Surveys of employers and unions in 1926 revealed that almost 80 percent would not hire an African American employee and unions would not accept them for fear of white workers leaving.

David Vassar Taylor. African Americans in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002.

Founded as a land grant college in 1851, the University of Minnesota’s mission was to serve the people of the State of Minnesota. However, it did not serve all Minnesotans equally.

The University experienced significant growth in the student body at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th as the state population expanded. President Lotus D. Coffman (1875–1938) served as president from 1922-1938, and anticipated that growth and wanted the University to be prepared to meet it in a way that would be good for the state. He appointed a Committee of Seven in 1924 to investigate issues related to that growth that would be of mutual interest to the University and the State’s secondary school system. It was headed by C. W. Boardman.

In the scientific mode of the era they spent three years assembling vital statistics on the state’s population, which included demographic information about parents’ occupations, place of birth, income, and where they lived, among other matters. Their final report in 1927, among other things, called for extending opportunities to students who might not live in the cities, or who were children of immigrants, or were from lower social classes. It appeared to champion a vision for equality of opportunity for the children of the State of Minnesota.

However, they manipulated the 1920 census data available to them as they analyzed who was likely to attend the University. The chart of the data included in their report, on which they based their planning, excluded all citizens of color from the State of Minnesota. In particular, they excluded nearly 9,000 African Americans, which was twice the number of those categorized as “other,” and larger than a number of immigrant groups who were counted as citizens. Their vision for the 20th century University of Minnesota excluded African Americans and other minorities. That exclusion had a profound effect on one of the central features of university life—where and with whom students lived, and their social lives and interests.

Mark Soderstrom. Weeds in Linneaus’ Garden: Science and Segregation, Eugenics and the Rhetoric or Racism at the University of Minnesota and the Big Ten, 1900-1945. Dissertation, History Department, University of Minnesota, Chapter One.

Open Doors–Closed Doors: A Tradition of Segregated Housing at the University of Minnesota

In contrast to some private colleges, the University of Minnesota accepted Jewish and African American students without quotas in many of its colleges. Applications to the University, however, requested information about race and religion, and African American and Jewish students were categorized as different from white and Christian students. Based on this information, the University created a racial hierarchy of its students, keeping African American students, in particular, at the bottom of the ladder. Documents and charts as simple as counts of incoming students’ physical exams, and information about out of state student populations, reveal how University administrators focused on Jewish and African American students as “problems.” President Lotus D. Coffman led the effort to maintain this hierarchy. He was committed to the expansion of the University and the value of a liberal arts education, but he was also the architect of taxpayer funded segregated housing both on and off the campus.

Physicals of Negro and Jewish Students

Student Health Services provided physical examinations for all incoming students. Jews and African Americans were counted apart from all other students. This information went directly to President Coffman.

Physicals of Negro and Jewish Students

Student Health Services provided physical examinations for all incoming students. Jews and African Americans were counted apart from all other students. This information went directly to President Coffman who constantly monitored the number of Jewish and African American students and their housing needs.  The monitoring contributed to the creation of a campus racial hierarchy.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

 

Tracking Negro and Jewish Students from Out of State

The University Senate monitored, at the request of President Coffman, how many out of state students who were Jewish or Negro were enrolled at the University. Is President Coffman worried about these two groups growing in numbers? Jews from New York became an addition category of “difference” to be monitored. The association of New York Jews with radicalism was a prevalent antisemitic stereotype.

Tracking Negro and Jewish Students from Out of State

President Coffman requested the University Senate to track data about students in the mid-1930s. As the pressure to integrate student housing increased, he wanted to specifically track “Negro and Jewish out of state students.” He considered both groups problems. New York Jews were a subset who were tracked because of the association of radicalism with . He monitored the possibility of growing radicalism, which he believed originated with New York Jews in Minnesota.  This appears in the Chase files because it was sent by someone from the University of Minnesota, most liked Dean Edward Nicholson because of his access to the University Senate minutes.

Back to Essay

 

“Race Prejudice Exists at U”

The Minnesota Daily in 1930 announced the Report of the Biracial Committee of the YMCA and the YWCA at the end of the academic year. It reported that prejudice against African American students was pervasive in the classroom, and in restaurants around campus. There was no housing available to African American students at that time.

“Race Prejudice Exists at U”

In 1929, the University of Minnesota YMCA and YWCA conducted a study on racial discrimination on campus, drawing observations from the state of student housing, treatment by university professors, and service in local businesses. Though the committee undertaking the study refused to draw conclusions, the data and stories they collected draw a damning picture of life on campus for African Americans, who were often held to higher standards in classes, discriminated against in nearby restaurants, and afforded poor and segregated accommodations in housing.  The report is one of the earliest statements of racial discrimination.

Back to Essay

There are few photographs in this section on housing of the African American students who led the struggle to change the University of Minnesota and challenge its racial hierarchy. African American fraternities and a sorority existed since the 1920s at the University, but were never included in the Gopher Yearbook. Only a few African American students’ pictures appeared. They were rarely part of campus organizations, which were highly segregated. Their story is told, then, in part, through the names and activities of every African American student activist who appeared in the Minnesota Daily, or the African American press, as well as those names found in the papers of deans and presidents of the University in folders marked “Negro.”

The names stand in for the images that do not exist.

African American Students Experienced Exclusion from Student Housing Throughout the 1930s

Student activism at the University of Minnesota in the 1930s began with the mobilization to integrate student housing and against racism on campus. African American and other students worked together to change these policies. Activists in the African American community mobilized Minnesotans to protest racial segregation as well. They ultimately succeeded, but some segregation in housing persisted into the 1950s.

As the number of students who attended the University of Minnesota increased, many more required housing, because they did not live in Minneapolis or Saint Paul. Sanford Hall, the first dormitory, was built for young women in 1910. It was named for Maria Sanford, a popular professor of rhetoric. She taught from 1880 to 1909. The first men’s dormitory, Pioneer Hall, opened in 1931. Students who did not live in dormitories sought rooms in University-approved boarding houses, which dotted neighborhoods around the campus.

In 1932, the Board of Regents of the University required all students to live in approved housing. They could live at home, in a dormitory, in a cooperative housing unit, or in privately owned boarding houses, all vetted by administrators. The University, therefore, played an increasingly important role in controlling students’ lives by deciding what was acceptable housing.

Boarding House Preference Negro, Jew

As late as 1950, the University of Minnesota still allowed people who ran boarding houses approved for student residences to restrict student renters by race, religion, and foreign birth. The University changed these policies formally by 1954 due to the efforts of the student NAACP organization on campus.

Boarding House Preference Negro, Jew

Householders who ran boarding houses were allowed to submit to the University of Minnesota preference cards indicating students who they would not accept.  Jews and “Negroes” were the first two categories.  By the 1940s they also included foreigners and Asians.  This document summarizes the boarding house preference cards by neighborhood and groups excluded.  The University Senate collected this information and finally called on the University to reject the practice in 1954, in part due to the activism of the Student NAACP on campus.

Back to Essay

President Coffman’s commitment to absolute segregated housing for white and African American students was part of his vision for the United States. In his view, education and progress were crucial to the nation, but real social change was not. In his letters to University administrators, to the NAACP and other organizations defending the rights of minorities, and to the parents of students asked to leave housing because they were African American, he had one point to make. Students of different races should not live together or socialize with one another. In Coffman’s view, a fundamental hierarchy in society should be maintained, built on unique privileges to white students and a complete separation of students of different races in any part of social life.

Lotus D. Coffman

Lotus D. Coffman served as president of the University from 1922 until his death in 1938. He led the campaign to keep University housing segregated from 1931 to 1937.

Lotus D. Coffman

Lotus Coffman served as the fifth president of the University from 1922 until his death in 1938.  The University of Minnesota grew during his tenure to become the third largest university in the United States.  He expanded both the physical plant, and oversaw the growth of the student body and faculty.

Though committed to the liberal arts, Coffman was an ardent supporter of social segregation among the students.  African American and Jewish students were admitted in growing numbers during the 1930s, and he used housing as a medium to support a racial hierarchy on campus.  He was the architect of segregated, publicly financed student housing.  As he expanded opportunities for white students, he carefully monitored the increase in minority students.  He envisioned segregated housing for African American male students, which the University created after Coffman’s death.

Back to Essay

Three University of Minnesota presidents responded to the issue of housing, race and religion over more than two decades. President Guy Stanton Ford (1873-1962) ended segregation in student housing in 1937 as Acting President. Ford’s policies were reversed, however by Walter Coffey (1876-1956), who served as president from 1941 to 1945, and supported segregation until 1942.

 

Slamming the Dormitory Doors on African American Students: John Pinkett, Jr. and Norman Lyght, and the Beginning of the Coffman Policy on Segregated Housing

In October of 1931, at the start of his Freshman year, John Pinkett, Jr., of Washington D.C., moved into Pioneer Hall, the newly built men’s dormitory. Only a few hours later, President Coffman was notified that an African American student was living there. Pinkett was promptly asked to leave, having spent one night.

Pioneer Hall Publicity Material

A brochure of the first dormitory for men to be built on the campus in 1931.

Pioneer Hall Publicity Material

This brochure advertised Pioneer Hall which was to open in 1931 as the first dormitory for male students.

Housing segregation was formalized when John Pinkett Jr., an African American students was refused a room the first day of his freshman year.

Back to Essay
1/4
2/4
3/4
4/4

 

Pinkett Sr. to LDC on Son’s removal

John Pinkett, Sr., a successful Washington, D.C. businessman, wrote to President Coffman in 1931 to express his outrage after learning that his son was asked to leave Pioneer Hall.

Pinkett Sr. to LDC on Son’s removal

John Pinkett, Sr., a successful Washington, D.C. businessman, wrote to President Coffman in 1931 to express his outrage after learning that his son was asked to leave Pioneer Hall.

Back to Essay

 

Coffman Letter to L.O. Smith of the NAACP

President Coffman sent this letter to L.O.(Lena Olive) Smith, President of the Minneapolis NAACP and Minnesota’s first African American woman lawyer, in response to her complaint that John Pinkett, Jr. was removed from Pioneer Hall.

Coffman Letter to L.O. Smith of the NAACP

President Coffman replied to the letter he received from the head of the Minneapolis NAACP, L.O. (Lena Olive) Smith condemning his decision to removed an John Pinkett Jr.,an African American student, from Pioneer Hall, the first men’s dormitory. This letter is Coffman’s first defense of segregated housing, and his distorted insistence that this was what African Americans wanted.

Back to Essay

In 1934, Norman Lyght, another African American student, from Lutsen, Minnesota, arrived on campus with a federal aid grant requiring him to live in a campus dormitory. He was not allowed to spend a single night in the dormitory.

Undergraduate Warren Grissom, Chairman of the Interracial Committee of the Negro Student Council, presented a report about the state of segregated housing to Local 444 of the American Federation of Teachers at the invitation of Political Science Professor Benjamin Lippincott in 1937. In the report he recounted what happened to Norman Lyght.

Warren Grissom Report on Housing

This thorough 1937 report of the University’s refusal to allow African American students to live in on-campus housing is one of the most important sources to demonstrate the effect of President’s Coffman’s policy of segregation on students.

Warren Grissom Report on Housing

Warren Grissom, an undergraduate students, was invited by Professor Benjamin Lippincott in 1937 to present a report to the American Federation of Teachers, Local 44, which had an on campus chapter.  It is a thorough history of segregated student housing.  The report is signed by the members of the Interracial Committee of the Negro Student Council, which was formed in 1937.

Back to Essay
1/7
2/7
3/7
4/7
5/7
6/7
7/7

 

W. Gertrude Brown

Miss W. Gertrude Brown, Head Resident of Phyllis Wheatley House, a settlement house that served African Americans on the North side of Minneapolis.  She was a major figure of African American life locally and nationally.

Each time an African American student attempted to move into student housing Miss Brown was called and asked to find housing for the students.  She was on the frontline of  responding to the University of Minnesota’s racism.

W. Gertrude Brown

W. Gertrude Brown was the Head Resident of the Phyllis Wheatley House, a settlement house that served African Americans on the North side of Minneapolis.  She was a major figure of African American life locally and nationally.

Each time an African American student attempted to move into student housing Miss Brown was called and asked to find housing for the students.  She was on the frontline of  responding to the University of Minnesota’s racism.

Back to Essay

In both cases, the University contacted Gertrude Brown (1888-1939), Director of the Phyllis Wheatley House, an African American Settlement House on the Northside of Minneapolis. University deans expected her to find housing for these and other students whom the University rejected. The Wheatley House provided social services and meeting rooms for African American organizations, and housed college students and visiting luminaries who were barred through segregation from living on campus or staying in hotels.

 

President Coffman Insists on Racially Segregated Housing

Lotus Coffman formalized the commitment to segregated housing, on behalf of the Board of Regents, in a 1935 letter that responded to the report of the All University Council Committee on Negro Discrimination. The report called for a change in housing policy. Coffman’s letter became the subsequent rationale for denying all African American students the right to live in University housing.

President Coffman asserted that segregated housing was essential to the University of Minnesota and did not constitute discrimination. Coffman not only claimed that racially segregated housing served both white and African American students best, he insisted that only white students were entitled to live in campus housing paid for by Minnesota taxpayers.

Coffman Rejects Integrating Pioneer Hall

President Coffman’s letter to the All University Council’s Committee on Negro Discrimination that rejected the request for integrated housing, and only acknowledged that there was a shortage of adequate housing for students.

Coffman Rejects Integrating Pioneer Hall

President Lotus Coffman sent this reply to the All University Council’s Committee on Negro Discrimination in response to its eight page report calling on the president to allow one African American male student to integrate Pioneer Hall.  They laid out the legal arguments for integration, and the growing number of institutions in the North that had integrated housing.  Coffman rejects their suggestion on behalf of the Board of Regents and acknowledges that there are issues around housing.  Secretly, members of his administration were hoping to create segregated housing for African American males.

Back to Essay

 

Board of Regents Who Supported Segregation

The 1935 Board of Regents who supported segregation and segregated housing on campus.

Board of Regents Who Supported Segregation

The 1935 Board of Regents who supported segregation and segregated housing on campus.  The caption beneath this image from the 1935 Gopher Yearbook refers to an important part of student life in the 1930s, to be encountered in the essay on student activism: mandatory drills for male students.
The caption is also remarkably political. It underlines the struggle for power between the Governor and the administration of the University over the appointment of regents, and recognized that the University of Minnesota was a key arena in political life.

Back to Essay

 

Middlebrook Requests Information About Housing for Negro Men

This letter is an early inquiry into whether a University owned property can be used to create a segregated residence for African American men by Comptroller William Middlebrook to the head of housing.

Middlebrook Requests Information About Housing for Negro Men

Throughout the 1930s, President Coffman sought a “solution” to the “problem” of housing African American students. This 1936 letter from Comptroller Middlebrook, who oversaw housing for the University, to Catherine McBeath, who managed housing, reveals Coffman’s preferred solution. In this letter Middlebrook inquired about the availability of a University-owned property to house “Negro men.” He advocated “Jim Crow” housing, a vision that was finally realized after his death in 1941, when the University created the “International House.” That segregated housing unit led to massive protests and the final end of campus segregation.

 

Back to Essay

President Coffman used the same rationales for enforcing segregation for the remainder of his tenure. In 1936, he received a letter from Roy Wilkins (1901-1981), an alumnus of the University, who would ultimately head the NAACP. Wilkins was shocked to learn that African American students were not being allowed to move into the dormitories.

Letter from Lotus D. Coffman to Roy Wilkins

President Coffman’s letter to Roy Wilkins contained a remarkable number of lies. He repeated without any proof that John Pinkett, Jr. was sent by an organization to integrate the dorm. He claimed, without embarrassment, that a building would be used for African American student residences, which did not occur while he was president. He insisted that African Americans themselves sought to live separately. Coffman was so committed to segregation that he twisted facts to fit his purpose.

Letter from Lotus D. Coffman to Roy Wilkins

President Coffman’s letter to Roy Wilkins, already a prominent Civil Rights activist in the NAACP and an alum of the University of Minnesota, responded to Wilkins’ concern about African American students being asked to leave student housing.  It  contained a remarkable number of lies. Coffman repeated without any proof that John Pinkett, Jr. was sent by an organization to integrate the dorm. He claimed, without embarrassment, that a building would be used for African American student residences, which did not occur while he was president. He insisted that African Americans themselves sought to live separately. Coffman was so committed to segregation that he twisted facts to fit his purpose.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

 

Excluding African American Women From University Housing: Ahwna Fiti, Audrey Beatrize, and Elizabeth Murphy, Were Asked to Leave their Student Housing

Ahwna Fiti, among the first African American women admitted to the School of Nursing, enrolled in the fall of 1933. She moved into the newly built Nurses Home (later Powell Hall), where all students were required to live. The key enforcers of segregated housing mobilized immediately, demanding that Ms. Fiti find other housing. President Coffman received competing opinions about the matter.

Elias P. Lyon (1867-1937), Dean of the Medical School, took exception to removing Ms. Fiti, despite initially opposing the integration of the School of Nursing. During the previous year, nursing students lived together in a cottage that was racially integrated. Now, at the insistence of Dean of Women Anne Blitz, the housing of nurses had to be segregated.

Dean Lyon Supports Integrating Nurses Hall

Letter from Dean Elias P. Lyon to President Lotus D. Coffman urging him not to force an African American nursing student to leave the Nurses Hall because of her race.

Dean Lyon Supports Integrating Nurses Hall

Letter from Dean Elias P. Lyon to President Lotus D. Coffman urging him not to force an African American nursing student from Nurses Hall, despite the insistence of the Dean of Women and other members of Coffman’s staff. Lyon rejected the segregation of the residence.

Back to Essay
1/3
2/3
3/3

 

Middlebrook Opposes Integrating Nurses

Comptroller William Middlebrook made the opposite case and won. His letter expressed fear that integrating this dormitory could set a precedent for undergraduate housing. He suggested paying Ms. Fiti’s rent in other lodgings. The price of segregation was apparently worth it to the administration.  President Coffman refused.

Middlebrook Opposes Integrating Nurses

Letter from Comptroller William Middlebrook to President Coffman in opposition to integrated housing for the nursing program at the University of Minnesota.  President Coffman sided with Middlebrook and against Medical School Dean Elias Lyon. Middlebrook proposed paying Ms. Fiti,  the nursing student to live elsewhere. Coffman did not agree.

Back to Essay

 

Montage of Nurses Hall

This 1936 Gopher Yearbook page on the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota reveals some of the reasons that the administration would not allow integration of the house. Half of the montage is devoted to focusing on nurses as feminized rather than professionals. They were expected to learn to pour tea and to socialize by a fireplace and on a terrace. These expectations were clearly not thought of as the norm for African American women.

Montage of Nurses Hall

This 1936 Gopher Yearbook page on the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota reveals some of the reasons that the administration would not allow integration of the house. Half of the montage is devoted to focusing on nurses as feminized rather than professionals. They were expected to learn to pour tea and to socialize by a fireplace and on a terrace. These expectations were clearly not thought of as the norm for African American women.

Back to Essay

Sending Women Students Away from their New “Homes”

In 1936, incoming students Audry L. Beatrize of Cyrana Lodge, Turtle River, Minnesota, and  Elizabeth Murphy of Baltimore, Maryland, looked forward to their first homes at the University in the Cooperative Cottages, located on Beacon Street on the East Bank of the campus. They planned to join other women students in sharing meals, possibly cooking responsibilities, and common spaces.

When the head of housing, Mrs. Catherine McBeath, learned that these young women, accompanied by their mothers, were African Americans, she informed them that they had to find other housing because of “University policy.” She had the full support of Dean of Women Anne Blitz, who vigorously supported segregated student housing. Once again, Gertrude Brown was contacted at Phyllis Wheatley House to find these students housing away from campus with African American families.

 

Dean Anne Blitz as an Enforcer of Segregated Housing

Dean Blitz’s zeal for segregation was striking. Shortly after Elizabeth Murphy and her mother were notified that there was no “home” for Elizabeth at the University of Minnesota, Blitz received a letter from the Dean of Women at Howard University, Lucy Diggs Slowe. Howard University is an historically Black college and was segregated when she wrote to Dean Blitz to ask her to be certain to look after Elizabeth, the daughter of a very close friend.

This correspondence between Dean Anne Blitz of the University of Minnesota and Dean Lucy Slowe of Howard University was one more occasion for Dean Blitz to reiterate the University of Minnesota’s commitment to segregated housing. Further, Dean Blitz insisted that housing segregation was an economic necessity, which revealed the administration’s fear that white students would not live in a dormitory that was racially integrated.

When Dean Blitz genially wondered if Dean Slowe would attend their next gathering of Deans of Women in New Orleans, Dean Slowe had to point out to her that she would not be allowed on an elevator in the hotel where they were gathering because she was an African American. Slowe declined to attend.

These three letters reveal the very different assumptions held by these two Deans of Women. African American Lucy Slowe is shocked that the University of Minnesota, a Northern University, would create segregated housing. Dean Blitz assumes, without embarrassment, that the races should be segregated in the United States, whether it is in a dormitory or a hotel.

Lucy Slowe letter to Anne Blitz Regarding Student Housing
Lucy Slowe letter to Anne Blitz Regarding Student Housing
Back to Essay

 

Anne Blitz to Lucy Slowe Responding to Query

Dean of Women Anne Blitz replied to Dean Lucy Slowe’s inquiry about her friend’s daughter who would be attending the University of Minnesota in 1936. Blitz explained that there was no housing for Negro students.

Anne Blitz to Lucy Slowe Responding to Query

Dean of Women Anne Blitz replied to Dean Lucy Slowe’s inquiry about her friend’s daughter who would be attending the University of Minnesota in 1936.  Dean Blitz explained that there was no campus housing for Negro students.  Blitz suggests it is for economic reasons since white students would not stay in dormitories.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

 

Lucy Diggs Slowe Letter to Anne Blitz Responding to Letter

Dean of Women at Howard University Lucy Diggs Slowe replied to Dean Anne Blitz about her statement that the University of Minnesota did not allow African Americans to live in dormitories.  Slowe’s moral outrage and shock over this fact underlines how surprising this policy was for a large, public Northern University.

Lucy Diggs Slowe Letter to Anne Blitz Responding to Letter

Dean of Women at Howard University Lucy Diggs Slowe replied to Dean Anne Blitz about her statement that the University of Minnesota did not allow African Americans to live in dormitories.  Slowe’s moral outrage and shock over this fact underlines how surprising this policy was for a large, public Northern University.

Back to Essay

 

Dean of Women, Howard University, Lucy Diggs Slowe

Lucy Diggs Slowe(1885–1937) was the Dean of Women at Howard University from 1922–1937. She was the first African American to serve as a Dean of Women in the United States. Her correspondence with Dean Anne Blitz revealed the extent of racial segregation at the University of Minnesota.

Dean of Women, Howard University, Lucy Diggs Slowe

Lucy Diggs Slowe (1885–1937) was the Dean of Women at Howard University, the first African American woman to hold that title.  She wrote to the University of Minnesota Dean of Women, Anne Blitz, in order to ask her to find housing for the daughter of a close friend, who was African American.  Her correspondence with Dean Blitz is an important statement of how racial segregation worked at the University of Minnesota.

Back to Essay

 

Dean of Women, University of Minnesota, Anne Blitz

Anne Blitz (1881–1951) served as Dean of Women at the University of Minnesota from 1923–1949.  he was strongly committed to racially segregated student housing because she feared informal social interaction between white students and students of color.  Her position did not change until 1938 when President Guy Stanton Ford outlawed excluding African American students from on campus housing.

Dean of Women, University of Minnesota, Anne Blitz

Dean Anne Blitz was Dean of Women at the University of Minnesota from 1923–1949. She was strongly committed to racially segregated student housing because she feared informal social interaction between white students and students of color.  Her position did not change until 1938 when President Guy Stanton Ford outlawed excluding African American students from on campus housing.  Dean Blitz also worked closely with Dean Edward Nicholson to limit student freedom in political participation on campus

Back to Essay

Charlotte Crump, an African American Voice about Student Housing

Charlotte Crump was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota in the mid to late 1930s. She was active in campus politics, a founder of the Negro Student Council, and studied to be a journalist. Ms. Crump wrote a semi-fictionalized account of the experiences African American students had finding on-campus housing. It appeared in the campus literary supplement of the Minnesota Daily. Crump also explained in her fictional letters home how marginalized she felt as an African American student “at a big Northern University.” She concluded her story with the actual formation of the Negro Student Council. She explained that though the American Student Union had approached many of them to work together, the African American students wanted to act through their own organization.

“This Free North,” in University Literary Magazine

“This Free North,” published in 1937, is a semi-fictional account of the events that occurred at the University when African American students were told they could not have housing on campus or nearby cottages.

“This Free North,” in University Literary Magazine

In this fictionalized account of real events, Crump reflects on her disillusionment with university life in a northern town, in particular the intolerance of white college students, who she associates with the frigid cold of the Minnesota winter. Written as a series of letters to her sister, “Marsh,” Crump recalls the struggle to organize African American students on campus and to address issues of discrimination on campus, namely the problem of segregated housing. She concludes with the formation of the Negro Student Council.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

 

Charlotte Crump Poole

Charlotte Crump was an important activist at the University of Minnesota.  She was a founder of the Negro Student Council in 1937, and worked for the integration of dormitories and cooperative cottages at the University.

Charlotte Crump Poole

Charlotte Crump was an important activist at the University of Minnesota.  She was a founder of the Negro Student Council in 1937, and worked for the integration of dormitories and cooperative cottages at the University.  Her story, “This Free North,” appeared in the literary supplement of the Minnesota Daily, and it was singled out by the African American Newspaper, the Minneapolis Spokesman, for its impact on the campus.  She was the first African American to serve on the Minnesota Gopher Yearbook, and also ran for the All University Council in 1942.

She appeared on the cover of Opportunity Magazine, a publication of the Urban League, when she entered the University of Minnesota in 1935 as a freshman.

She was a journalist at the Pittsburgh Courier, worked at the national office of the NAACP in Wsahington DC, and moved to San Francisco where she founded the Jack and Jill Clubs.

Back to Essay

The immediate response to her story was a letter from Dean Blitz asking Crump to meet with her because she had failed to contact the Dean and included misstatements in her story. There is no record of whether or not they met. Crump’s story was remarkably accurate about housing, according to all other sources.

Anne Blitz Letter to Charlotte Crump about “This Free North”

Dean Blitz sent Charlotte Crump a letter that bristled with annoyance about her story in the Literary Supplement. Crump described the experience of being an African American student at the University of Minnesota in 1937.

Anne Blitz Letter to Charlotte Crump about “This Free North”

In her letter to Charlotte Crump, Dean of Women Anne Blitz argues that her essay “This Free North,” which appeared in the 1937 Literary Supplement contained “misstatements” and questions the veracity of Crump’s accounts of campus life. Crump described the experience of being an African American student on the campus

Back to Essay

 

The Fight to Open the Doors from 1930–1938

Student activists condemned campus racism. The Biracial Committee of the YMCA and YWCA sought to transform the treatment of African Americans on campus, beginning in the 1920s. African American journalist Homer Smith was a student activist in the 1920s, and in 1928 he was involved in protesting the exclusion of an African American woman from admission to the School of Nursing.

These activists drew on well established traditions in the Twin Cities where African Americans were anything but passive in the face of racism. They organized social, religious, and defense organizations and churches. Settlement houses in Minneapolis and St. Paul played important roles in offering social, economic and political connections. Similarly, NAACP chapters were established in St. Paul in 1913 and in Minneapolis in 1914 to combat discrimination. The Urban League, founded in the 1920s, focused very effectively on creating job opportunities for African Americans.

African Americans had endured intense racism in Minnesota. The white supremacist Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s (100,000 members in the State in 1928) and the Silver Shirts in the 1930s fomented violence and racism against African Americans. A lynching of African American circus workers in Duluth in 1920 happened in this milieu. Racism pervaded the Twin Cities in every aspect of daily life: housing, employment, access to restaurants and entertainment, schools, and social interactions.

As segregated housing grew with the expansion of both on-campus dormitories and near-campus cottages, and the number of African American students grew to more than fifty, the issue gained prominence.

In 1936, students founded the Negro Student Council and cemented their ongoing leadership of the struggle against racism on campus.

 

The Student Campaign to End On-Campus Segregation

The students who fought for integrated housing found allies in student government, among the faculty, in the student movement, and with the African American press and leadership. Through petitions, fact-finding reports, testimony, and articles and editorials in the Minnesota Daily, they challenged President Coffman and those on his staff in charge of housing who worked to enforce segregation.

 

Taking on President Coffman

The All-University Council, the name of student government in the 1930s, appointed a committee of African American and white students to assess discrimination against African Americans in 1935. The student members chose to focus on housing and presented a detailed argument opposing segregated housing, and requested that one African American male student be admitted to Pioneer Hall.

Report of Council Committee on Negro Discrimination

This remarkable eight-page document laid out the rationale for integrating housing. The students wrote to colleges and universities throughout the United States to learn whether or not integrated housing was the norm. They laid out the legal rationale based on Minnesota statutes for requiring integrated housing, and based on conversations with white students, argued that white students were more than willing to live with African Americans.

Report of Council Committee on Negro Discrimination

This eight-page report was produced by an integrated group of undergraduate and graduate students as members of the student government, the All-University Council’s Committee on Negro Discrimination. It was sent to President Coffman in 1935 with the request that one African American male student be admitted to the dormitory. The authors covered legal rights for integration. They queried colleges and universities throughout the United States about integrated student housing. They spoke to students on the campus. It represented a remarkable amount of effort and commitment.

Back to Essay
1/8
2/8
3/8
4/8
5/8
6/8
7/8
8/8

 

Martha A. Wright Wilson

Photograph of Martha Wright’s 1938 graduation picture from the Technology College of the University of Minnesota. She was the only woman or African American graduate listed. She was a member and president of the Negro Student Council, and fought segregated student housing.

Martha A. Wright Wilson

Martha Wright was one of the very few African American students who had a photograph in the Gopher Yearbook. Her 1938 graduation as a math major from the College of Technology photograph lists her activities as memberships in the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, and the Negro Student Council, which she led as president. Neither group was ever photographed for the yearbook.  She was a member of a Negro Student Council committee that worked on de-segregating student housing.

She went on to a career at Savanah State College as a Professor of Mathematics, and ultimately Dean of Undergraduate Studies.  She was active in organizations that fought for human rights and children’s health, as well as serving as a national leader of the Episcopal Church, breaking barriers of race and bender.

 

Back to Essay

Student activists continued to press their case through the efforts of a faculty ally. Benjamin Lippincott (1912–1988) joined the University’s Department of Political Science in 1932 and retired in 1971. No member of the faculty was more supportive of student rights and freedom, and more opposed to segregation. In 1937, Professor Lippincott invited undergraduate Warren Grissom to assess the state of housing for African American students for the American Federation of Teachers, which functioned as a union-like structure for faculty. He presented the report at their meeting on campus on January 21, 1938. The signers of the report included members of the recently created Negro Student Council and their white allies who worked on the Interracial Committee.

Warren Grissom Report on Housing

This thorough 1937 report of the University’s refusal to allow African American students to live in on-campus housing is one of the most important sources to demonstrate the effect of President’s Coffman’s policy of segregation on students.

Warren Grissom Report on Housing

Warren Grissom, an undergraduate students, was invited by Professor Benjamin Lippincott in 1937 to present a report to the American Federation of Teachers, Local 44, which had an on campus chapter.  It is a thorough history of segregated student housing.  The report is signed by the members of the Interracial Committee of the Negro Student Council, which was formed in 1937.

Back to Essay
1/7
2/7
3/7
4/7
5/7
6/7
7/7

The University’s racist student housing policies were carefully monitored and responded to by the African American press and community leaders. Journalists from the Minneapolis Spokesman (continuously in print since 1935) read the Minnesota Daily regularly and summarized articles about housing in their pages. Community leaders’ contributions were essential to changing the policies.

These two articles appeared in the Spokesman during the period of student activism. They were highly critical of President Coffman and praised student activists.

“Student Council to Fight Race Bias”

The Spokesman-Recorder called on members of the African American community to oppose segregated student housing on campus

“Student Council to Fight Race Bias”

In 1937, the Negro Student Council at the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Spokesman urged readers to telegram Governor Benson in support of fighting racial segregation and discrimination on campus. Led by Arnold Walker, the initiative hoped to dispel President Coffman’s theory that Twin Cities residents and students were “perfectly satisfied” with current conditions.

Back to Essay

 

“Students Give Lessons to Teachers”

The Minneapolis Spokesman article, “Students Give Lesson,” appeared on October 25, 1935 and commended the University of Minnesota students who protested President Coffman’s support for segregated housing on campus. While applauding the student efforts, the Spokesman calls for an organization of “business people” who could advocate for African American student rights

“Students Give Lessons to Teachers”

The Minneapolis Spokesman article, “Students Give Lesson,” appeared on October 25, 1935 and commended the University of Minnesota students who protested President Coffman’s support for segregated housing on campus. While applauding the student efforts, the Spokesman calls for an organization of “business people” who could advocate for African American student rights.

Back to Essay

 

Guy Stanton Ford Ends Segregated Campus Housing From 1937-1941

President Ford assumed leadership of the University due to the illness in 1937, and subsequent death of President Coffman in 1938. In the Fall Semester, another effort was made to integrate the Cooperative Cottages when Audrey Beatriz, an African American undergraduate, sought to move into an open room. Mrs. McBeath, who managed housing, demanded that the residents vote on whether the student could move in, which had no precedent. The young women voted 60–44 against admitting her. The majority of those who voted would not have even shared living space with Ms. Beatriz.

Acting President Ford then took a firm stand to stop segregated housing. In a letter to Comptroller Middlebrook, he directed the immediate opening of campus housing to any student who was a resident of the State of Minnesota, regardless of race.

President Guy Stanton Ford

Guy Stanton Ford was the sixth president of the University of Minnesota from 1938-1941, and served as the first Dean of the Graduate School, and chair of the Department of History.  President Ford overturned racial segregation in publicly financed student housing immediately upon assuming the presidency. He also established academic freedom as a right for faculty

President Guy Stanton Ford

Guy Stanton Ford was the sixth president of the University of Minnesota from 1938-1941, and served as the first Dean of the Graduate School, and chair of the Department of History.  President Ford overturned racial segregation in publicly financed student housing immediately upon assuming the presidency.  He played a critical role in bringing the William Schaper case to the Board of Regents.  Schaper had been fired by the Regents as insufficiently pro war in 1917.  Not only did the Regents overturn the decision, but they also adopted  a code of Academic Freedom for faculty that President Ford initiated.  He transformed the University of Minnesota.

Ford was required to retire in 1941 and became executive secretary of the American Historical Association.

 

Back to Essay

Acting President Ford sent a copy of this letter to the Minnesota Daily upon the request of the editor. In it, he laid out his rationale for the new policy, and his outrage at segregation, in particular. He wrote:

“I could not conceive of the responsible officer of this state University supported by all classes taking discriminatory action based on creed, or color, or political faith. Our classrooms are freely open to any qualified student who conforms to the purposes and procedures of an institution of higher learning. The same policy applies to our other facilities.”

“U. Policy Permits Negroes to Use Housing Units”

Acting President Guy Stanton Ford submits to the Minnesota Daily the letter to Comptroller Middlebrook stating the reversal in policy of racially segregated campus housing that was the policy of President Lotus Coffman.

“U. Policy Permits Negroes to Use Housing Units”

Dean Guy Stanton Ford (Acting President of the University of Minnesota) submits a letter addressed to comptroller Middlebrook to the Minnesota Daily on the subject of racially-segregated housing on campus. In the letter, Ford affirms that African Americans would be free to utilize housing and dormitory facilities on campus. The letter was submitted in response to recent controversies when African American students had been rejected from university-run accommodations.  This statement reversed President Coffman’s policy in support of segregated housing.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2
“Dean Ford Ends Housing Ban”

This article is an important record of the African American students who led the fight to integrate student housing and succeeded. Charlotte Crump, Helene Hilyer, Warren Grissom, and Arnold Walker were the students whose names were most often connected to the fight to end housing discrimination.

“Dean Ford Ends Housing Ban”

William R. Simms writes in support of Dean Guy Stanton Ford’s decision to allow integrated student housing on the University of Minnesota campus in the Minneapolis Spokesman, which covered the struggle for integration from its founding in 1934. Simms quotes at length from the Minnesota Daily’s coverage of the issue, whose editor, Jay Richter, published an editorial criticizing the administration for its policies of segregation. Simms also acknowledges the importance of other campus figures who contributed to the new policy, including noting the importance of Charlotte Crump’s “This Free North” story that appeared in the campus Literary Magazine.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

The Minneapolis Spokesman reported the long-awaited end of segregated housing on campus:

“The successful culmination of the long fight against the University’s discrimination policy in regard to housing Negro students in its various housing units was seen as a result of the statement made by the Minnesota Daily on Tuesday of this week by Dean Guy Stanton Ford, acting president in the absence of President Coffman. In a drastic reversal of what had formerly been an “unwritten policy,” Dean Ford gave the Minnesota Daily a copy of a letter dated December 20th, 1937 and addressed to William T. Middlebrook, comptroller.

Organizations and individuals alike who never gave up the fight in the face of little or no advantage gained are to be commended. Especially noteworthy was the unprecedented action of Warren Grissom and Beatrice Schuck, respectively representing the Negro Student Council and the Hallie Q. Brown Forum, in carrying the issue to the Minnesota Branch of the American Federation of Teachers and eventually to Governor Benson.

Among those individuals who helped bring the matter to a climax were Charlotte Crump, whose “Free North” did much to set the campus thinking on the race issue and intolerance in general. Arnold Walker who single handed carried the fight two years ago: Helene Hilyer, John F. Thomas, and numerous white students.

Outstanding among organizations who have put their shoulder to the wheel in the interest of tolerance and fair play are the National Students’ Union; the Farmer-Labor Party, and the Negro Student Council.”

Helene Hilyer Hale

Helene Hilyer was the granddaughter of the first African American male graduate of the University of Minnesota. This 1939 graduation picture is included among the graduates from the School of Education. Her activities included membership in the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha for African American women. The remainder of her activities focused on peace activism.  The Minneapolis Spokesman lists her as an activist for the integration of student housing.

Helene Hilyer Hale

Helene Hilyer was the granddaughter of the first African American male graduate of the University of Minnesota. This 1939 graduation picture is included among the graduates from the School of Education. Her activities included membership in the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha for African American women. The remainder of her activities focused on peace activism.  The Minneapolis Spokesman lists her as an activist for the integration of student housing.

Hilyer was unable to find a job teaching in Minnesota because no one would hire African Americans.  She moved to New York, and ultimately Hawaii where she held elected offices and was active in the Democratic Party.

Back to Essay

 

President Walter Coffey Created a Jim Crow House for African American Male Students During WWII. The Largest Mobilization Against Campus Racism Followed.

Walter Coffey became President of the University of Minnesota in 1941, on the eve of WWII, and quickly challenged President Ford’s policy of integrated student housing. His staff, including Comptroller William Middlebrook, created an “International House” in 1941 on Washington Avenue SE, in a building owned by the University.

International in name only, it was NOT for international students but for African American men. President Coffman had formulated this idea in the early 1930s. Part of the impetus for creating this cooperative house was likely the fact that the Wheatley Settlement House no longer provided housing for African American students.

Student activists rejected segregated housing and integrated the International House with white and African American student residents, as well as Japanese American students awaiting admission to the University during the period of Japanese American citizens’ internment. The Japanese American students were ultimately rejected by President Coffey.

The house was immediately shut down by the head of Pioneer Hall as soon as he learned it housed African American and white student residents. The University sacrificed a $6,000 investment to refurbish the cooperative house in order to avoid integrated housing.

A student uprising followed. If the fight to integrate housing in 1935 involved a few dozen students, the fight in 1942 involved over a thousand students. With the United States at war to fight for democracy in Europe, this blatant racism was noted by the activists on and off campus.

Walter Coffey

President Coffey noted in the Gopher Yearbook feature about him that the only drawback to his job was that he “met too many old people and too few students.” Coffey refused to ever meet with students over the months of protest about his support for segregated housing.

Walter Coffey

Photograph of and introduction to President Walter C. Coffey, as published in the 1942 Gopher Yearbook.

Back to Essay

 

The “FACTS” of the Segregated International House

Statement of Facts Regarding International Boarding House

The University’s claim about why it closed its segregated International House was based on unconvincing “facts” contained in an unsigned “Report on the Facts” provided to the Dean of Student Affairs. The agreed-upon fact was that Garland Kyle, a graduate student in Mathematics who was African American, sought housing through the University in the Fall of 1941. A white student did as well. They were invited by Housing Services to move into a cooperative house at 624 Washington Avenue SE, refurbished by the University for over $6,000. Garland Kyle moved into the house in the winter quarter of 1942. He was joined by Harry Andre, a white student. Garland Kyle never agreed to the “fact” that this house would serve only African American men, nor did his roommate Benjamin Solomon.

Statement of Facts Regarding International Boarding House

The University’s claim about why it closed its segregated International House was based on unconvincing “facts” contained in an unsigned “Report on the Facts” provided to the Dean of Student Affairs. The agreed-upon fact was that Garland Kyle, a graduate student in Mathematics who was African American, sought housing through the University in the Fall of 1941. A white student did as well. They were invited by Housing Services to move into a cooperative house at 624 Washington Avenue SE, refurbished by the University for over $6,000. Garland Kyle moved into the house in the winter quarter of 1942. He was joined by Harry Andre, a white student. Garland Kyle never agreed to the “fact” that this house would serve only African American men, nor did his roommate Benjamin Solomon.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

The Minnesota Daily reported in detail over many weeks on the events related to the University closing the International House because it was integrated, and Garland Kyle became one of the leaders of the protest.

“Statements Issued in Housing Dispute”

Garland Kyle and Harry Andre explained that they had never agreed to live in a segregated house created by the University of Minnesota.

“Statements Issued in Housing Dispute”

Newspaper article detailing the charge against the University administration for racial discrimination in student housing, particularly for closing a cooperative house, misleadingly named International House,  that students had integrated on the grounds that it was “strictly for Negroes.”

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

 

“Negro Discrimination on Campus Charged”

The Minnesota Daily continued to cover the unfolding story of the segregated International House by interviewing students who were not allowed to move into the house who were white.

“Negro Discrimination on Campus Charged”

Report in the Minnesota Daily on instances of racial discrimination in University of Minnesota student housing. Garland Kyle, an African American graduate student, recounts an instance when a white student was compelled to move out of International House to maintain policies of segregation. Representatives for the NAACP argue that the strongest influence on the administration’s decision to reverse these policies would be widespread student protest.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

 

Unprecedented Mobilization—Calling Out Segregation in Wartime

Within a short time, African American students on campus acted together to protest the University’s insistence that the International House remain segregated.

“Negroes Protest Discrimination”

In response to the administration closing an integrated International House, African American students laid out the injury created by segregation, and their demand for change, in their “Open Letter to the Gentlemen of the Administration.”

“Negroes Protest Discrimination”

African American students publish an open letter in the Minnesota Daily, protesting the university administration‘s policy of discrimination and the closing of the International House because students integrated it.

Back to Essay
1/2
2/2

The Civil Rights Committee, an integrated group of student activists chaired by Leonard Lecht, campaigned to expose and defeat segregated housing on campus. They built alliances with multiple student groups on campus, collected over 1,000 signatures on a petition opposing segregation, organized rallies, and demanded that all student political parties with candidates running for election to the All-University Council take a stand on housing. The majority of the All-University Council voted to clarify the housing policy, but rejected supporting integration.

The activists formed a “Committee of Six” that worked closely with the NAACP chapters in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Minnesota Branch, and the American Federation of Teachers Local 444.

The Civil Rights Committee organized an April protest at Coffman Union where over 100 people rallied and heard from Garland Kyle and Cecil Newman, editor of the African American newspapers Minneapolis Spokesman and St. Paul Recorder. The Spokesman offered the fullest account of the event.

“U Students Hear Protest”

Minneapolis Spokesman Editor Cecil Newman noted that rights for African Americans was the true test of American democracy for which a war was being fought. He compared Hitler’s theories to the promotion of segregation in the United States.

“U Students Hear Protest”

Betty Alexander writes in the Minneapolis Spokesman about a protest meeting at Coffman Union organized to protest the creation of an “International House,” whose purpose was to provide segregated housing for African American male students. This segregated house reversed the  longstanding racial segregation policies at the University of Minnesota. Alexander references a speech made by Cecil Newman, editor of the Spokesman, who applauded Dean Guy Stanton Ford for a decision that was “based on the finest convictions of American democracy.” He compared Hitler’s theories to the promotion of segregation in the United States.

Back to Essay

The segregated “International House” prompted letters to the Minnesota Daily and Minneapolis newspapers, as well as national news coverage. Harold Field, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota, wrote with outrage to the Daily about the International House as he faced being drafted to fight in WWII.

“Opposes Negro Discrimination”

A letter from alumnus Harold Field opposing discrimination in segregated housing in regard to the creation of housing exclusively for African American men.

“Opposes Negro Discrimination”

Alumnus Harold Field writes a letter to the editor, appearing in the Minnesota Daily on April 24, 1942. As a draftee, Field argues that by urging him to sacrifice for democracy, the University administration should also commit itself to the reversal of its policies of racial discrimination.  He responded to campus protests against the creation of the “International House,” which was created in order to provide segregated housing for African American male students.

Back to Essay

 

President W. C. Coffey refused to meet with or reply to students or faculty about the Jim Crow House. Organized Resistance Finally Succeeded!

President Coffey remained silent throughout the weeks and months of protests, and forbade his staff to speak to others as well. It was not until the summer of 1942, and only after continued pressure from the NAACP and its allies, that President Coffey relented and agreed to end segregated housing. These two Minnesota Daily articles chart the President’s refusal to meet with students about University segregated student housing.

“Coffey Will Not Address Groups on Discrimination”

This Minnesota Daily article reports President Coffey’s refusal to address, or allow other administrators to address, representatives of campus organizations on the topic of discrimination and student housing

“Coffey Will Not Address Groups on Discrimination”

This article in the Minnesota Daily reports President Coffey’s refusal to address, or allow other administrators to address representatives of campus organizations on the topic of discrimination and student housing. Despite the cancellation, the student committee on civil rights held a forum at the Student Union and seven campus groups agreed to pursue official action on the question.  Students heard from graduate student Garland Kyle, who lived in the house and helped to lead the protest, and Cecil Newman, editor of the Minneapolis Spokesman.

Back to Essay

 

“Student Protest Rally is Today”

A Minnesota Daily report on a large student protest objecting to the creation of a segregated “International House” for African American men.

“Student Protest Rally is Today”

The Minnesota Daily reports on a large student protest organized to pressure the University administration into making a declaration on student rights and housing. President Coffey refused to make a statement on the closing of the International House when white students moved into a segregated house exclusively for African American men,  or “the Negro problem”, despite a petition with over 1,000 student signatures calling for his reversal of longstanding discrimination policies on campus.

Back to Essay

 

Cecil Newman

Cecil Newman (1903–1976) founded the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder in 1934. He was a crucial leader in the civil rights struggle in Minneapolis. His leadership of the local African American press was critical to the success of the decade-long struggle to end segregated housing at the University of Minnesota.

Cecil Newman

Cecil Newman (1903–1976) was an American civic leader and founded the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder in 1934. He was a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters that successfully fought agains segregation in the 1930s and the 1940s. He was a crucial leader in the civil rights struggle in Minneapolis, and president of the Minneapolis Urban League in 1948. His leadership of the local African American press was critical to the success of the decade-long struggle to end segregated housing at the University of Minnesota.

 

Back to Essay

The small size of the African American community made political effectiveness challenging. In the 1930s, however, a new generation of leadership developed from the Labor movement that gave rise to a different and more effective type of political activism. Activists such as Nellie Stone Johnson, Cecil Newman and Anthony Cassius built on their union work in the Pullman Porters and hospitality industry to create a strong political movement for African American rights grounded in their own independent organizations. Alliances with the Farmer-Labor and Democratic-Farmer-Labor Parties were important to realizing a broader national commitment to civil rights.

Jennifer Delton. “Labor, Politics, and African Identity in Minneapolis, 1930-1950.” Minnesota History, Winter 2001-2002, pp. 419-434.

“Coffey U Prexy Reverses Stand”

President Coffey finally relented. He agreed to end segregated housing, although there was no recognition of this fact in the fall issues of the Minnesota Daily. The only record of his decision appeared in this July 31, 1934 issue of the Minneapolis Spokesman, which recounted a meeting between Coffey and the only two people whom he ever agreed to see. R.A. Skinner, President of the NAACP, reported that Coffey said an integrated house would open in the fall.

“Coffey U Prexy Reverses Stand”

After the controversy surrounding the administration’s closing the housing cooperative, “International House,” because it was racially integrated, President Coffey announces an initiative to reopen a similar house “open to any qualified student who wants to room there.” The announcement came on the heels of growing protest against policies of segregated student housing.

Back to Essay

By 1942, the University of Minnesota was one of the last Big Ten Schools to still have segregated housing. While campus housing was at last integrated, boarding houses approved by the University continued to discriminate against Jews and African Americans. In the war years, householders could also refuse foreign and Japanese American students. The housing doors to all students did not officially open until 1954, when the University no longer allowed householders to exclude student boarders on the basis of race, religion, or nationality.