June 4, 2019

UWS and UMD professors collaborate on Minnesota Historical Society grant

Funded by a grant through the Minnesota Historical Society, professor Jamie White-Farnham of the University of Wisconsin-Superior and professor David Beard of the University of Minnesota Duluth conducted interviews with nine community activists to learn more about the motivations and strategies of antiracist activism in Duluth. Interviews were conducted to gain insight into three kinds of antiracist projects: the Unfair Campaign of 2012, the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, and writings that bring awareness to the subject of racism in Duluth, such as the 1979 Michael Fedo book “The Lynchings in Duluth.”

The project came about in 2012, when the Unfair campaign brought national attention and backlash for its white privilege message.

“As writing professors, we were curious why the argument of the campaign wasn’t received as it was meant to,” said Beard.

“We’ve learned that there are many rhetorical strategies in use at the same time in service of antiracism,” said White-Farnham. “Our work is to understand how they have worked or not so that antiracism work might advance successfully.”

To gain new understandings of what is known as antiracist rhetoric, White-Farnham and Beard interviewed several community activists, compensating them with the grant funding. The interviews included Michael Fedo, author of “The Lynchings in Duluth” (1979); Heidi Bakk-Hansen, local writer and activist involved in the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial; Henry Banks, local activist and host of KUWS show “People of Color”; Carl Crawford, local activist and member of Duluth NAACP; Catherine Nachbar, K-12 educator and activist involved in the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial curriculum; Carla Stetson, activist and sculptor of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial; Patrice Bradley, creative director at Swim Creative, contributor to the Unfair campaign; Lee Zeigler, writer and contributor to the Unfair campaign; and Ellen O'Neill, retired director of Duluth YWCA during the planning and execution of the Unfair campaign.

UMD student Nora Curtis served as the research assistant on the project, transcribing dozens of hours of interview recordings. With the completed transcripts, White-Farnham and Beard plan to publish book telling the story of antiracist activism in the Twin Ports as a generations-long effort that has seen success and road bumps as it evolves over time.

This project was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

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