For seven years, in coffee shops and at her kitchen table, Anne Winkler-Morey interviewed dozens of Minneapolis residents, recording their personal histories. There were no research assistants. There was no grant.

There was just her curiosity.

And, it turns out, her patience. "I had no idea just how much work this was," Winkler-Morey said. "What I learned is, the only way to make something like this happen, especially if there are no funds, is to be extremely patient."

For her Minneapolis Interview Project, the 65-year-old historian, author and south Minneapolis resident collected oral histories from 92 people, ages 17 to 90, living in neighborhoods across the city. Among them are activists, artists and educators, people of different races and economic classes.

Recently, the stories found a permanent home at the Hennepin History Museum. And this week, they'll get an audience at the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis.

Together, they tell a complex history of the city — knotty, luminous, alive.

"It's such a beautiful tapestry of stories of how we all got here and what we all do here," said Irna Landrum, whose history is included in the project and who will act as a narrator for the Thursday event.

Those stories are the kind the Hennepin History Museum is telling more often. The museum's recent exhibitions have dug into redlining and the resulting enduring housing disparities, as well as the construction of Interstate 35W and its displacement of communities of color.

The well-worn tales of the territorial pioneers are "increasingly less relevant to people today, unless you're a real history nut," said John Crippen, the museum's executive director. "But telling the stories of the last 50, 60, 70 years, that's what gets people going because they can see that immediate impact on their daily life."

Including the Minneapolis Interview Project in the museum's archive was "a fairly obvious decision for us," he said. "It's a great way to document history as it's happening."

Winkler-Morey has lived in Minneapolis for 48 years. But growing up, she moved from place to place, year after year. It taught her to notice differences.

Moving to Durham, N.C., at age 8, she saw that the city was segregated block by block. An unpaved, red clay road on one block, mansions on the next. "I was able to see, 'Wow, this is different,'" she said. "And I'm grateful for that. 'Why are things this way?' I started to ask those questions very young."

Curious about the country, Winkler-Morey trekked in 2011 and 2012 around the United States' perimeter on a bike. With her book, "Allegiance to Winds and Waters: Bicycling the Political Divides of the United States," she was "anxious about getting these places right that I had stayed in for 24, 36 hours."

She wondered: "What do I know and not know about Minneapolis, where I live?"

As an adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University, Winkler-Morey always assigned her students autobiographical writing. When she started her interviews, too, she looked first to her former students. She began with a list of questions, which she abandoned very quickly.

"Really, I just let people tell their stories," she said. "They were much, much better interviews if I kept my mouth shut."

People talked about their family histories, about their political awakenings, about their mentors and mentees. They talked about Jamar Clark and George Floyd.

"I've tried to pass on the need to develop a genuine historical consciousness in which you understand that the struggle for freedom is transgenerational," writer and award-winning professor John Samuel Wright said in a personal history that spans decades and continents. "It is ongoing and unceasing."

In 2019, as the interviews accumulated, picking up energy and drawing in people who wanted to share, photographer Eric Mueller reached out. He began photographing the people Winkler-Morey had interviewed in places they chose, places that held meaning.

Landrum, 43, stood beside the Mississippi River. She rides her bike there "so regularly, a friend of mine called it my church." In New Orleans, she told Winkler-Morey, she lived a mile and a half from the same river. "Sometimes I weep about not having had this kind of relationship with the river as a child."

Winkler-Morey invited Landrum into her home. They sat in her kitchen. Landrum had seen the folks she'd interviewed already — "people I deeply respect and admire." And she knew Winkler-Morey's work and writing. So she trusted her with her story.

Together, they explored "what it means to be a child of this water," Landrum said by phone. What it means to be from land that was once the site of slavery. Land that her family sharecropped. "I've continued wrestling with being in that story," she said, "and finding ways to write my way through it."

Archives have helped. Taking a course with writer Erin Sharkey, Landrum has used archival documents to learn more about her family's history. So she loves that Winkler-Morey has created an archive that captures activists' stories, including her own.

"There's something that feels really tender and fierce and important and sort of magical about that," she said. "That we're also part of the archive.

"We're still making it for future generations."

Minneapolis Interview Project
What: An Evening of Real-Life Stories about Social Justice in Minneapolis
When: 6 p.m. Thu., Sept. 14
Where: Capri Theater, 2027 W. Broadway, Mpls.
Tickets: Free, but reservations required
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