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Diesel Heart

Diesel Heart

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Regular price $ 17.95 Sale price $ 17.95

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An Autobiography

Author Melvin Whitfield Carter Jr.

Minnesota Historical Society Press (February 1, 2019)

Full of humor, toughness, hard work, and surprising vulnerability, this book shows the bitter weight of racism and the power of principled resistance.


The doctors gathered around, passing the stethoscope from hand to hand, taking turns listening to my chest. Finally, the lead doctor said, "Now, that's what I call a heartbeat!"
I snapped, "Whaddaya mean?"
"It's like hearing a diesel engine inside a Mustang body," he said.

Melvin Whitfield Carter Jr., the father of St. Paul's current mayor, is a true son of Rondo, the city's storied African American neighborhood. He was born in a city divided along racial lines and rich in cultural misunderstanding. Growing up in the 1950s and '60s, he witnessed the destruction of his neighborhood by the I-94 freeway—and he found his way to fighting and trouble.

But Carter turned his life around. As a young man, he enlisted in the US Navy. He used his fighting ability to survive racist treatment, winning boxing matches and respect. And as an affirmative action hire in the St. Paul Police Department, facing prejudice at every turn, this hardworking, talented, and highly principled officer fought to protect the people of the city he calls home.

Diesel Heart is the story of a leader who created a powerful family legacy by standing up for what is right, even in the face of adversity.

Author information

Melvin Whitfield Carter Jr. served as an officer in the St. Paul Police Department for twenty-eight years. He is the founder and executive director of Save Our Sons.

Reviews and news

History Theatre play based on Diesel Heart

Pioneer Press

Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Minnesota Public Radio

Ramsey County History Magazine

The Monitor (St. Paul)


Pioneer Press article on Save Our Sons

Video: East Side Freedom Library/Ramsey County Historical Society event

Advance Praise:

“Wow! Bang! POW! A graphic, honest, no-holds-barred account that needs to be read by all who want to understand what it was like to be a young Black man confronting and ultimately overcoming the challenges of Rondo and the evil perversity of white supremacy and racism. This is a book that grabs you by the collar, pulls you in close, and dares you to put it down. I couldn’t, and neither will you.”
Marvin Roger Anderson, cofounder, Rondo Avenue, Inc.

“Melvin Carter’s autobiography not only describes his personal journey to manhood but places that journey inside of a larger movement that captures the local, national, and, to a degree, the world racial climate at the time. His honest and entertaining account reads as a bildungsroman, chronicling personal, family, city, and community evolution.”
Lou Bellamy, founder and artistic director emeritus, Penumbra Theatre Company

“As a witty and passionate storyteller, Melvin has planted transformative seeds in the lives of thousands. I’m overjoyed and hopeful when I think about all of the young Black men who will read Melvin’s heart- and soul-touching literary celebration . . . as embraceable history, and a vision of their possibilities!”
Robin P. Hickman, CEO and executive producer of SoulTouch Productions

Reader's guide

Diesel Heart Reader's Guide by Dane Verret (PDF)

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 256 pages
  • 27 b&w photos
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341255

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