Our Stories

Macalester Means the World to Us - 50 Year Reunion - June 6-8, 2014

Civil Rights

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Experiencing the power of the pen
Craig Scherfenberg

While editor of The Mac Weekly, breaking the story that some of Macalester's off-campus housing was segregated, and seeing the policy changed due to my reporting

Being the first student from KC
WillieMae Carey Wilson

As part of the Civil Rights movement, some Macalester College students created a student exchange program with two (2) historically African American colleges in the south: Knoxville College (KC) in Knoxville, TN, and Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA in 1962. I was the first student from KC to come up to Macalester to study in September 1962. I am honored to be counted as a1964 alumna of both colleges. My favorite memories are of the times that I spent with Carol Huenemann Eick, Marilyn Hoff, Mary Oesterhuis Snyder (roommate), Nancy McMartin Henderson (roommate), Gail Dufelmeier Stremel, and Edie Ellis going to the International House, to activities both on-campus and off-campus, eating pizza, and listening to "Peter, Paul, and Mary". One of my biggest adventures was finding my way to an off-campus African American beauty salon using directions given to me by Yolanda Ridley (first African-American Homecoming Queen for Mac) to get my first "perm". My car ride home to Birmingham, Alabama in a carload of white, Mac students at Christmas time was also quite "scary" as we traveled from the "North to the deep South" in 1962 before the passage of the Civil Rights Bill.

First Macites in Knoxville
Carol Huenemann Eick

Marilyn Hoff and I were the first Macites to head south for the exchange program with Knoxville College in 1962. The two students who agreed to be our roommates were wonderful. It was intriguing to sort out what was "southern" culture and what was "black." For example, women wore stockings and high heels to class. Students always "spoke" when crossing paths, with eye contact and smiles. So KC seemed both more formal and friendlier than our northern Mac campus. I went to Atlanta on the Trailways bus with Haroldeen for Easter vacation, a quiet witness compared to the Freedom Riders who forced integration. Some of us left the Howard Johnsons restaurant in protest when our group was not served together. The 50 year reunion of Mac and KC exchange students in 2012 at Macalester was an amazing time sharing what these folks have been doing in the years since that "civil rights era."

Racism 101
Phoebe Wood Busch

Carolyn Ekelund and I shared a room on the first floor of Turck Hall during freshman and sophomore year. Across the hall lived a terrific upperclasswoman, Yolanda Ridley, whom many will remember fondly. By 1963 Carolyn was planning her August wedding to Ron Mogen. In May of that year my mother and I gave a bridal shower in her honor to be held at the Highland Park Country Club in St. Paul. Of course, we invited Yo.

As the event approached we had not heard from our friend and asked her why. Reluctantly she confessed that she was afraid that the country club would not admit her! We, naive and clueless, were very taken aback. My mother immediately spoke with the club director who assured her that there would be no problem. With some misgivings Yo agreed to attend and all went well.

Yolanda was one of the first African-Americans to attend Macalester. She stayed in the dorm, even as a senior, because she was afraid local residents would not rent to herÂ…The incipient civil rights movement took on new urgency for me.

Picketing three St. Paul theaters
Don Gemberling

In the fall of 1960, a representative of the National Student Association appeared on campus. He announced a nationwide campaign to pickets chains of theatres that had outlets in both the north and the south. The objective was to bring pressure on those chains so that they would desegregate their southern theatres.

This appearance and some campus discussion led to the founding of Student Action for Human Rights (SAHR). Someone or some group, no lost to my memory, trained SHAR members in the basics of non-violent protest. After that training, SAHR took on as its first activity the picketing of chain affiliated theatres in downtown St. Paul.

Three theaters were chosen.Two across the street from one another on what was then Seventh Street and one around the corner on Wabasha. SAHR chose Sunday nights as the time to begin and carry on the picketing. Informational signs about segregation in the south and signs asking the theaters to integrate their southern outlets were prepared. I believe the picketing actually began after first semester finals which in those days were in January.

As part of the message, we were encouraged to dress well which sometimes was challenging to some of us who were sartorially challenged and especially on those nights when it was bitterly cold which, given that this is Minnesota, was often. The picketing was covered by local television. Generally the protests were well received. Although I do recall some cat calls and nasty comments. Training in nonviolence helped us ignore those kinds of things.

The protests went for some weeks. Later the National Student Association did tell us that efforts in the north had helped send message to southern segregationist theaters.

SAHR members next volunteered to participate in what I believe was an NAACP sponsored effort to do door-to-door surveys in the neighborhoods north and south of the Rondo (Selby/Dale) neighborhood. The federal government had decided to route I-94 through the heart of Rondo. The object of the surveys was to determine whether African Americans, when displaced by the freeway, would have difficult moving to other neighborhoods.

The survey results clearly demonstrated that African Americans would have trouble finding new housing in the Frogtown and Summit neighborhoods and the inevitable ghettoizing of parts of the Selby/Dale neighborhood.

SAHR continued its efforts on the campus and elsewhere. I do recall sponsorship of the Freedom Singers and the seminar on "Sophisticated Segregation: What is Happening in the North."

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