An effort to raise more than $100,000 for a statue of Nellie Stone Johnson, a black civil rights and labor leader during the 1930s and ’40s, is in its final stages, but the effort is shy a few thousand dollars.
The African-American Leadership Forum set a Saturday fundraising deadline, calling on its members to raise the remaining $8,000 for the statue, which would be placed in the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda. The project already has received a state contribution of $30,000, and labor unions donated a $30,000 match.
Johnson was a civil rights trailblazer in Minnesota before she died in 2002 at age 96.
Once the fundraising is complete, Johnson will become the first African-American and first woman to be memorialized with a statue in the Capitol.
Spearheaded by former state Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, the effort began in 1997. Mullery and Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, secured the state contribution with the remainder of the money raised by labor groups, individuals and students at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School in north Minneapolis.
Johnson was the first African-American elected to public office in Minneapolis, winning a seat on the library board in 1945. She also was a leader in organized labor in the 1930s and ’40s. She helped found the DFL Party and desegregate the U.S. Army. She served on the Minnesota State University Board for eight years, working to recruit and retain students of color.
Having her memorial in the Capitol “would really mean the world,” said Jeffrey Hassan, executive director of the African-American Leadership Forum. “The symbolic significance cannot be overstated.”
Donations can be made to the Nellie Stone Johnson Capitol Fund, Union Bank, 312 Central Av. SE, Minneapolis, 55414.