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Working to Disrupt the Narrative: Ownership and Occupation in Rondo


Stereotypes position Rondo as a ghetto and a slum, however artifacts showing “ownership and occupation” in the community disrupt these notions.  Within Rondo, ownership extended to both homes and businesses and individuals worked for themselves, for others in the community and for businesses in the greater Saint Paul area. Rondo was a vibrant, self-sufficient community full of business-owners, home-owners, and men with steady employment. Within the narrative put forth of Rondo, it is easy to forget the diversity of businesses and people that lived in the community. The Rondo community provided a place for black people in Saint Paul to own their own homes and start their own businesses. There was great respect within the community for those who had employment or owned their own businesses and homes. This respect arose in part because of the large obstacles placed in the way of African-Americans by segregated Saint Paul. Within “ownership and occupation,” the artifacts chosen for this exhibit emphasize jobs on the railroad, business-ownership, and home-ownership. The men who worked on the railroad had steady employment and an income that accorded them a significant level of respect and prestige within the community. In addition, Rondo was home to a number of diversified businesses that met the needs of community members. Home ownership allowed Rondo residents to live independently and have control over their own neighborhood. Railroad work, home-ownership and business-ownership provided Rondo residents with economic and social empowerment and incorporating them into the historical narrative disrupts notions of Rondo as a slum.

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