A History of Diversity

The settlement of Minneapolis seemed to occur in the blink of an eye.  In 1852, just six years before Minnesota gained statehood, this photo was taken by the Mississippi River in what would soon become Minneapolis, on Hennepin Ave. and the Mississippi River.

Approximately 20 years later, the same location. Downtown Minneapolis had been born.

Central has a long history of diversity.  As early as the mid 19th century, African Americans were moving into the area that became Central.  Amoung them were the family members and followers of William C. Goodridge.  Goodridge and his wife Evalina ran the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania in the 1850s.  In his case, the Railroad actually ran on tracks.  Not only did he ship human cargo to safe haven in Canada, he owned the trains and railroad cars that hid them.  Born in 1806, the son of a slave woman and a white father, he earned his freedom at age 16.  He quickly became an influential businessman in York, Penn. while hiding his status as a key player in the Underground Railroad. (www.goodridgefreedomhouse.com)

Goodridge owned 25 commercial and residential properties in York, which served their apparent purpose, but also contained hidden rooms.  Even Goodridge's own home (now a museum on the National Register of Historic Places) contained a large hidden room directly under the kitchen.  Word of kidnapping/murder plot drove him to Minneapolis to live with his daughter Emily and her husband Ralph Grey in St. Anthony.  The Greys had been in Minnesota since the 1850s and were themselves key leaders in the Underground Railroad and abolitionist movement.   (www.paquestforfreedom.com)

As one of the most prominant African American men of his generation, Goodridge helped draw a population of politically-active, highly-educated African American citizens to Minneapolis.  Many settled in St. Anthony and Central neighborhoods.  Goodridge is buried in the Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery on East lake Street.  The founders of that cemetery, Martin and Elizabeth Layman, were members of the First Baptist Church, which was a gathering place for abolitionists, and the cemetery was never segragated.  This was a strong statment ("Cemetery ties to Minnesota Anti-Slavery Movement, "Thursday August 28th, 2011, www.friendofthecemetery.blogspot.com)

During the first quarter of the 20th century, immagrants flocked to Minneapolis to work in it's lumber industry, flour mills, and railroads.  Much of the Central neighborhood was built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Prominent architects designed and built fanciful Queen Anne houses, gifting Central with one of the largest numbers of intact, Victorian residential architecture in the country.  These magnificent residences cantinue to draw old-house lovers to the neighborhood to purchase, restore and live in these gracious homes.  Once available only to the wealthy, these homes are now affordable, and are calling new residents to the neighborhood.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Park Avenue in Minneapolis far surpassed St. Paul's Summit Avenue with it's opulent mansions, parks and gardens.  It was also a place for big parades.

The Central neighborhood was named for Central High School.  The City's first Cental High - circa 1890 - was called Central Union High School and was located at 11th Street an 3rd Avenue South.  It was destroyed by a fire in 1863.  The Central High School the neighborhood took it's name from was built in 1913 and torn down in the 1980s.  It was located on 4th Avenue South between 34th Street and 35th Street where Green Central Elementary stands today.


During World War II and after, the Central Neighborhood continued to attract African American families.  Many African American churches and other important institutions serving the community began at this time and continue to this day.  Here is 4th Avenue and 38th Street in the 1960s. (Photo: MN History Center)

The former business hub at 38th Street and 4th Avenue still houses The Minneapolis Spokesman Recorder (which began publishing in 1934 and moved to it's new building in 1956) and the Minneapolis Urban League at 411 East 38th Street.  Sabathani Commuity Center has occupied the old Bryant Junior High school building since 1979.

The Central Neighborhood Today

The 1990s saw the beginings of burgeoning Latino population in Central Neighborhood.  Dozens of Latino owned businesses began to open along Lake Street, contributing immensely to the new vitality of this bustling business stretch.  As of the last year Latinos made up the largest group in Central Neighborhood, at 44% of Central's population.  Next were African Americans at 25% and Caucasians at 21%.  From 2000 to 2010, the African American population in Central dropped by more then 1,200 while the Latino population rose 1,800.

This demographic shift will present new oppertunity and challenges for CANDO as a neighborhood organization, especailly since many of our new residents are Spanish speaking.  

Even more recently the area has seen a significant wave of immigrants.  Many refugees from war-torn areas of Africa (including a large Somali conitingent) or have come from Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Central neighborhood is also home to a large number of Gay, Lesibain, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (GLBT) resident, as well as several important GLBT institutions serving Central residents, including All God's Children at Park Ave. and 31st Street, and the Twin Cities only GLBT magazine Lavender at 38th Street and Chicago Ave..  Out Front Minnesota is also located in Central.  It is a non-profit providing leadership in moving the state towards the elimination of homophobia and full equality for the GLBT community.  Out Front is located in the Sabathani Community Center.


Neighborhood Organizations of the Past

Central Neighborhood Involvment Association (CNIA)

As CANDO's predecessor, CNIA had a long -and until a big bump in the road at the end- very successful history.  This organizaiton was formed in 1995 to represent the entire Cental Neighborhood and to administernearly 6 million dollars in Neighborhood Revitalization (NRP) funds.  CNIA staff and volunteers orchestrated a massive grassroots organizing effort resulting in a highly-detailed Action Plan that was approved by the NRP board and City of Minneapolis.  The basic concept behind NRPwas that neighborhoods could best determine how funds should be spent in their own communities.  Programs were devided into Community Building, Business and Economic Development, Housing and City Services, Youth and Family.  Amoung dozens of important projects CNIA funded the Boy's and Girl's Club move to Phelps Park, the Learning Tech Center at Hosmer Library and Urban Ventures East Soccer Field.  CNIA partnered with James Ford Bell Foundation on the Central "Intiative", which provided employment oppertunities, training and leadership training for staff and board members.  Bell grants also provided funding for general support for CNIA(so NRP funds could go directly to neighborhood programs) and money for block clubs.

NRP funding also went to the "Central Youth intiative".  Funds supported Hosmer Library, Urban Ventures, Central Babysitting Club, The Ebony Pheonix Project, Freeport West, Sabathani Life Skills, Boys an Girls Club and We Win Institute.

Despite these successes and partnerships, CNIA experianced a take-over of the board and organization in 2000, by the self identified "Blue Crew".  With accusations of racism and gentrification against the current CNIA board and staff, a complete board takeover occurred during a single chaotic meeting.  The new CNIA group did not have a successful tenure.  The organization lost funding from the James Ford Bell Foundation, support from the McKnight Foundation, and was eventually shut down by the City.  Amoung many concerns was the inability of the recognized CNIA to return funds to the James Ford bell Foundation, which pulled long term support, and it's inability to pass an audit.  (See: Polictical snipe fest drowns out residential harmony in Minneapolis' up and coming neighborhood, City Pages, June 14th, 2000, http://www.citypages.com/content/printVersion/11687/ ; Central Heating: A Minneapolis Neighborhood association raises the eyebrows of the city administrators-and the ire of some of it's own constituents, June 20th, 2001, City Pages http://www.citypages.com/2001-06-20/books/central-heating/)


Central Weed and Seed

Weed out the bad and seed for positive growth in Central!  That was Weed and Seed's purpose as a federally-funded program run through the City of Minneapolis.  Weed and Seed began in 1997 and Central was the first neighborhood in Minneapolis to access the program.  The program was run in partnership with the Park Police at Green Central Park.  The concept was developed to increase community outreach and involvment, to weed out the crime and gangs and seed new programs, projects and services for Central residents.  This long-term project also served as the incubator for the new Central Neighborhood organization - CANDO!

CANDO was organized so that once again Central has an NRP-funded organizationto represent the neighborhood and provide NRP funds to improve the community.  CANDO was granted status as the NRP Citizen Participation Organization for the Central Neighborhood in November of 2006.  Once again, Central had an NRP organization to represent it and advocate for residents.


Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization - CANDO

CANDO began in 2006 with an all-volunteer staff to renew the mission of promoting neighborhood livability and stability, fostering economic development, and strenghthening communication through inclusive ad represntative community involvment. CANDO works with NRP, the new Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) department, the City of Minneapolis, other organizations, non-profits, government organizations and of course with residents and business ownersto develop a wie variety of plans and programs with an emphasis on housing.  In 2008 CANDO hired it's first paid staff member - a full time Community Organizer.  In 2011, the CANDO board voted to to instate it's first Executive Director position.  It continues to use interns on staff for community outreach.  CANDO staff works to connect residents to resources to imporve their lives and this very specail, historic and always diverse community.

Today CANDO is determined to repair last relationships with foudations and other non-profits, in order to leverage more funds and more programs for the community. 

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