Albert Alonzo Ames, called “Doc,” was mayor of Minneapolis four times, between 1876 and 1903.Though he earned notoriety as “the shame of Minneapolis” for his involvement in extortion and fraud during his last term in office, Ames also won praise for his work as a doctor and an advocate for veterans.
Eugenie Moore Anderson emerged as a trailblazer for American women in international diplomacy during the post-World War II era. In 1949 she became the first American woman to hold the rank of ambassador.
When Jack Baker and Michael McConnell became the first same-sex couple in the United States to apply for a marriage license, in 1970, Hennepin County clerk Gerald R. Nelson rejected their application. They then sued Nelson, claiming a constitutional right to marry in what would become a landmark Supreme Court Case.
Elmer Benson was elected in 1936 as Minnesota’s second Farmer-Labor Party governor with over 58 percent of the vote. He was defeated only two years later by an even larger margin. An outspoken champion of Minnesota’s workers and family farmers, Benson lacked the political gifts of his charismatic predecessor, Floyd B. Olson. However, many of his proposals—at first considered radical—became law in the decades that followed.
Minnesota Congressman John T. Bernard fought throughout his life for working people against strong opposition. His outspoken and uncompromising views led him, on his second day in office, to cast the single “no” vote in Congress against the Spanish arms embargo. Bernard’s vote proved farsighted as the Spanish Civil War became, in many ways, a “dress rehearsal” for World War II.
From their state's admission to the Union until the mid-1860s, a majority of Minnesotans advocated the abolition of slavery in the South. Black suffrage, however, did not enjoy the same support. Minnesota's black citizens paid taxes, fought in wars, and fostered their communities. But they could not vote, hold political office, or serve on juries. This continued until 1868, when an amendment to the state's constitution approved suffrage for all non-white men.
During his five decades in Minnesota, Joseph R. Brown was a significant figure in territorial and state politics. Although he never held high office, he exercised great influence on how the region developed. His ability to produce legislative results earned him the nickname, “Jo the Juggler.”
Since 1952, the Citizens League has had a major impact on public policies in Minnesota. A group of civic leaders had the idea of inviting leaders from different parts of the community to the table to solve big policy issues. This meant bringing together lawmakers, union leaders, heads of Minnesota companies, and experts from universities and industries. As a group, these experts and leaders would study an issue and then write a research paper they could all agree on. Then they would do the political work required to make their conclusions a reality.
On the night of July 19, 1967, racial tension in North Minneapolis erupted along Plymouth Avenue in a series of acts of arson, assaults, and vandalism. The violence, which lasted for three nights, is often linked with other race-related demonstrations in cities across the nation during 1967’s “long hot summer.”
Ignatius Donnelly was the most widely known Minnesotan of the nineteenth century. As a writer, orator, and social thinker, he enjoyed fame in the U.S. and overseas. As a politician he was the nation's most articulate spokesman for Midwestern populism. Though the highest office he held was that of U.S. congressman, he shaped Minnesota politics for more than thirty years.
African Americans Dred Scott and Harriet Robinson Scott lived at Fort Snelling in the 1830s as enslaved people. Both the Northwest Ordinance (1787) and the Missouri Compromise (1820) prohibited slavery in the area, but slavery existed there even so. In the 1840s the Scotts sued for their freedom, arguing that having lived in “free territory” made them free. The 1857 Supreme Court decision that grew out of their suit moved the U.S. closer to civil war.
Vincent Raymond (V. R.) Dunne dedicated his life to improving the plight of workers. A leader in the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters strike and convicted in the Smith Act Trial of 1941 for his involvement in the Socialist Workers Party, Dunne fought many battles in labor and politics.
Seventeenth Minnesota governor Adolph Olson (A.O.) Eberhart lived the classic American story of an immigrant who achieved success through hard work and ability. He graduated at the top of his class at Gustavus Adolphus College and was the youngest state senator in the 33rd legislative session.
In a special state senate election held in January of 2002, Mee Moua became the first Asian woman chosen to serve in the Minnesota Legislature and the first Hmong American elected to any state legislature. Her win in St. Paul’s District 67 made national news and had lasting political and cultural impacts on the Hmong community.
On August 21, 1860, enslaved African American Eliza Winston was freed from her Mississippi slaveholder in a Minneapolis court. After being granted legal freedom, however, Winston faced white mob violence and was forced to leave the area. The event showed that although slavery was illegal in Minnesota, many white Minnesotans supported the practice when it economically benefited them.
The botched execution of William Williams was the last in Minnesota. After newspapers broke state law to report on the event, public opinion turned firmly against the death penalty, and it was repealed in 1911.
The Farmers' Alliance in Minnesota thrived from 1886 to 1892. During this time, the organization achieved the most progress toward its political goals in the state. These included greater regulation of the railroad industry as it impacted the wheat market, elimination of irregularities in the grading of wheat, and minimization or elimination of the middleman in the wheat trade.
The Farmers' Holiday Association was formed in 1932. The Midwestern organization successfully fought against farm foreclosures with novel strategies like penny auctions, but unsuccessfully lobbied Congress for a federal system that would pay farmers for their crops based on the cost of production.
Minnesota Territory experienced a boom period starting in 1855. Industry flourished region-wide and companies amassed incredible wealth. The Financial Panic of 1857 brought the good times to a halt and interrupted the growth of the fledgling state.
The U.S. Army built Fort Snelling between 1820 and 1825 to protect American interests in the fur trade. It tasked the fort’s troops with deterring advances by the British in Canada, enforcing boundaries between the region’s American Indian nations, and preventing Euro-American immigrants from intruding on American Indian land. In these early years and until its temporary closure in 1858, Fort Snelling was a place where diverse people interacted and shaped the future state of Minnesota.
William T. Francis, Minnesota’s first African American diplomat, served as U.S. Minister and Consul to Liberia, West Africa, from 1927 until his death. He investigated and reported on Liberian government complicity in forced labor of Liberian men and died in Monrovia of yellow fever on July 15, 1929.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization which existed from 1866 to 1956. It was composed of veterans of the Union Army, United States Navy, Marines, and Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War. The organization allowed veterans to communicate with one another and plan reunions. At its peak in 1890 it was a powerful organization, supporting the rights of veterans and primarily Republican politicians.