History and presence of white supremacy in Minnesota


Minnesota has a long hailed tradition of white political progressiveness. In 1933, Austin, Minnesota, was home to the first-ever sit down strike in U.S. history. However, the state has had an even longer history of white dominance, exclusion and violence. Just 11 years before the historic sit-in, white workers on strike (also in Austin) organized a lynch mob, attacked and killed Black strikebreakers brought in from the South. Labor historian and co-executive director of East Side Freedom Library Peter Rachleff, explains one root cause of that dual nature:

“The relations between white workers and white employers is worked through by the presence of workers of color,” Rachleff says, “the idea that immigrants take jobs that (white) Americans don’t want or that employers have threatened and at times used strikebreakers or replacements who come from communities of color when white workers themselves are challenging power and trying to organize or trying to strike.”

On Dec. 13, 2015, the Twin Cities Daily Planet hosted a panel of scholars at the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul to discuss white supremacy’s long history in Minnesota and how it can be overcome. Watch the full discussion, featuring Rachleff, Minneapolis Community and Technical College English professor Shannon Gibney and University of Minnesota African American studies professor Keith Mayes, below.


[Editor’s Note: The title for Andrea Plaid in the video calls her the Editor of the Twin Cities Daily Planet. She is the former Arts + Culture Editor.]

2 thoughts on “History and presence of white supremacy in Minnesota

  1. Great panelists. Interesting, informative conversation on almost all topics. My one critique would be the characterization of the 4th Precinct shooting victims as dupes. I was there. I saw the altercations that led to the shooting and further talked with and listened to shooting victims tell their stories. The people shot were part of a security force who were escorting the white supremacists away once other protesters identified them as white supremacists. The security force was a large crowd. Maybe 10 to 15. Their brave actions removed avowed white supremacists, who had threatened the gathering on video, away from others gathered at fire pits, children included. In other words they were heroes not dumbos lured away with promises of candy. Wish the panel brought to talk about 4th precinct shooting had brushed up on the actual happenings of the day before they got on the mic to talk about it.

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