African American History in Greater Longfellow

On May 5, 1863 the Northerner, a steamboat carrying 70 formerly enslaved African Americans from Missouri, docked at Fort Snelling. Later that month the Davenport, a second steamboat carrying 200 more people, docked at that very same site. This 1863 exodus from Missouri doubled the African descendant population in Minneapolis, but the precise landing point has never been mapped. The panels below help to tell the story of African American history in Longfellow.

In 2022 LCC had the privilege to partner with the honorable Judge LaJune Lange, founder of the International Leadership Institute (ILI), and filmmaker Sophia Watkins to spotlight three African American families’ history in Longfellow.

Through the City of Minneapolis Partnership Engagement Fund, Judge Lange and Sophia conducted research, site visits, reviewed historical documents, and collected oral histories and interviews in order to map the landing site, and create a documentary connecting this history to the stories of 3 families whose Longfellow history began at landing point: The McMoores, The Lees, and the Websters. By conducting descendant interviews, we were able to map three or four historic homes and/or families in the greater Longfellow neighborhood.

At the 2022 Minnehaha Open Streets, participants had the opportunity to preview the documentary and learn about these three families. A month later, the documentary was complete and we held a premier at the historic Fire Station 24. The event was incredibly impactful and after the screening, Judge Lange moderated a panel discussion with the descendent family members who were able to attend.

The community members we spoke with highlighted what a privilege it was to learn about the history of African Americans in this neighborhood from descendant families. The history shared throughout the course of this project has never been shared with a wide audience so this project was incredibly special. We hope to continue partnering with Judge Lange on future projects.