The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship


Publication Title

Minnesota History

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2019


From the 1890s to the 1920s, a community of over one dozen African Americans existed in St. Cloud, Minnesota. It consisted of African Americans from the South and elsewhere in the North. Most found employment in low-wage jobs, but some--like John Webster and David Basfield--started their own businesses in town. Their children attended the same schools as the other local school-age children, and one of them--Ruby Cora Webster--became the first known graduate of what became St. Cloud State University. The children left St. Cloud by the 1920s, and their parents either stayed there or relocated with them. In the meantime, segregation by skin color intensified during the community's existence, and a mob's lynching of an African American nearly took place in town in 1917. This article looks at the people comprising St. Cloud's African American community and their struggle for survival during one of the nation's most violent periods for American Americans.


This article was published in the summer 2019 issue of Minnesota History, a magazine published by the Minnesota Historical Society. The article was originally published at



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