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Whiteness in Plain View

Whiteness in Plain View

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A History of Racial Exclusion in Minnesota

Author Chad Montrie

Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 5, 2022)


An examination of White Minnesotans’ efforts to exclude African Americans from local communities, jobs, and housing across the state and through the decades.

Minnesota is a paradox. Widely seen as a progressive stronghold of the Midwest, the state also has some of the greatest racial disparities in the nation. Those disparities have their roots in Minnesota’s earliest days as a territory and in the decades that followed. From enslaved people brought to the territory by military officers to migrants traveling to the North Star State after the Civil War, African Americans have long been present in Minnesota’s history. Yet while many came here looking to establish new lives, they were often met with White resistance and attempts to exclude them.

Whiteness in Plain View examines the ways White residents across Minnesota acted to intimidate, control, remove, and keep out African Americans over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their methods ranged from anonymous threats, vandalism, and mob violence to restrictive housing covenants, realtor deceit, and mortgage discrimination, and they were aided by local, state, and federal government agencies as well as openly complicit public officials. What they did was not an anomaly or aberration, in some particular place or passing moment, but rather common and continuous. Chapter by chapter, the book shows that Minnesota’s overwhelming Whiteness is neither accidental nor incidental, and that racial exclusion’s legacy is very much woven into the state’s contemporary politics, economy, and culture.

Advance Praise

“An earnest look at the subtle, insidious, and sometimes violent ways in which Minnesotans engaged in segregationist policies. Chad Montrie explains how the fear of Black labor that White Southerners held post-Reconstruction gripped the North and led to pervasive exclusion of Black Minnesotans from social, political, and economic life.”
JoJo Bell, board president, African American Interpretive Center of Minnesota

In the media:

"A new book by Chad Montrie, a history professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, might well have been titled 'The Shame of Minnesota.' It is a detailed description of how Black Americans, over nearly two centuries, were either barred from living in communities across Minnesota, or driven out of communities, or forced to live in the most dilapidated sections of Minneapolis and St. Paul so as to preserve the white-only character of more attractive neighborhoods in the cities and surrounding suburbs. . . . 

"When it came to the state's growth and development, it would seem that people of color were nearly always expendable. Given the current state of affairs — the vast disparities in employment, home ownership and income between whites and minorities — not to mention the gigantic issues of policing in our state, a just society appears to be a long way off. Montrie's groundbreaking book is extremely useful in helping us understand how we got to this point."
Star Tribune

"The thing I most appreciate about Chad Montrie’s book, Whiteness in Plain View . . .  is its broad scope. Too often when discussing Minnesotan racism, we focus only on the core cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, which have long been home to the majority of the state’s people of color."
Bill Lindeke in MinnPost




Author Information

Chad Montrie is a professor in the history department at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is the author of four books, including The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism. His article "In that Very Northern City: Recovering a Forgotten Struggle for Racial Integration in Duluth" appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Minnesota History magazine.

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 272 pages
  • 26 b/w photos and 4 maps, notes, bibliography, index
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681342108

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