Historic PlacesLife & Culture

“There’s My Friend from High School!”

By Bontu Gemeda

Program cover of the 1960 NAACP Convention held in St. Paul, MN

“There’s my friend from High School!” Mr. Anderson shouts excitedly. Hot, sweaty, and dust-covered from cleaning out 1st Baptist Church in St. Paul accommodate our new headquarters of Rondo Ave. Inc. I walked out of the back office wondering what all of this man’s shouting was about.

“I can’t believe what we found!”, Marvin says, “This is the program book from the 51st NAACP Convention in 1960! They had it here that year and wow a lot of people from my neighborhood went,” His voice became quieter but much more starstruck. He flipped through the thin program book commenting on the people that he knew from his  neighborhood and growing up.

It was sheer luck that we ran into this program book in the dusty Church file cabinet. After flipping through the program book myself, the amount of black and white paid ads surprised me. Businesses such as: Northern States Power Company, Richman Brothers, McLellan’s to name a few supported the NAACP’s Convention in St. Paul. The convention looked on paper to be more like a celebratory affair than a subversive movement that fought against the fundamental power structure of this country.

As a beneficiary of the Minnesota public education system, the thought of Thurgood Marshall doing anything besides constructing arguments to end desegregation never entered my mind. The NAACP, for the benefit of their guests, included a list of restaurants, bars and hotels they may patronize throughout the Twin Cities. Imagine Thurgood Marshall eating at restaurant on University Avenue!

The competition was strong regarding which city was going to host the 50th Annual NAACP Convention but the delegation from St. Paul held a trump card. Roy Wilkins, the NAACP’s Chief Executive Officer, was from St. Paul. The stoic Roy Wilkins showed careful neutrality as the arguments came forth to host the convention in his native St. Paul, MN. Letters written by then Minnesota Governor Orville L. Freeman and other prominent citizens of the state served to bolster the argument of hosting the 50th Anniversary of the NAACP in St. Paul. Ultimately the convention committee relented and agreed to host the NAACP convention in St. Paul in 1960.


List of various restaurants and bars in Minneapolis and St. Paul that were friendly to African Americans
Pictured are the Youth Hostesses of the NAACP committee. They had the responsibility of welcoming newcomers to the city.
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2 thoughts on ““There’s My Friend from High School!””

  1. I’m doing my own research and I’m wondering can I comment to find a person of interest who’s father had great responsibility here in Louisiana as a parish Sheriff for 18 yrs. Can anyone contact me to help me find wht this man’s son did while living in St. Paul. He was living there in 1906 and I found him in the 1910 Census

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