The Arthur Lee house in south Minneapolis, the site of one of the more horrific racial episodes in the annals of the city, may get national recognition.
A team of students at the University has done extensive research on an episode involving the reaction of white neighbors when the black family of Arthur and Edith Lee moved into the house at E.. 46th Street and Columbus Avenue S. in 1931. Now a nomination for the National Register of Historic Places is being prepared.
The Lees move into their house turned out a mob of several thousand whites for several nights running that forced the city to summon police for their protection. The Lees stuck out the situation for about a year before moving. That history was commemorated in the 2011 dedication of a marker in the yard of the modest frame house.
Greg Donofrio, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, said his 36 students extended their research net well beyond the house and incident to try to capture the broader racial history of the area. Donofrio, who directs the heritage conservation and preservation program at the university, was contacted for research help by Stearline Rucker, president of the Field Regina Northrop Neighborhood Group.
Teams from the class looked into the history of the house and those who occupied it, but also looked more broadly at such themes as school integration, public life, home ownership and how the incident was covered in mainstream and black-owned newspapers. They inter viewed area elders about significant developments in the area’s racial relations.
With the support of Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and John Quincy, the neighborhood and Donofrio got a $4,200 state Legacy Fund grant through the Minnesota Historical Society to draft the nomination. Donofrio expects that draft by late spring.
“It’s really very exciting for us in the community,” Rucker said. She said that some of the research portrayed in displays by the students could be used in area schools.
Donofrio said that that although addition to the national register would bring recognition to the property and the events around it, another step would be to pursue local designation. That brings actual protections and restrictions on how the property may be altered.
The house’s elderly owner, Pearl Lindstrom, said she’s hoping the designations can be accomplished while she’s still kicking.