Sunday, April 18, 2021

Anna Arnold Hedgeman

The Sunday Star Tribune includes a Minnesota History column by writer Curt Brown, which is both almost always worth reading and about someone I have never heard of. Today's subject is Anna Arnold Hedgeman, who grew up in Anoka, a town north of Minneapolis that's now considered a suburb, though it was a separate place before it was absorbed by the metro area. 

Anna Arnold was born in 1899 in Iowa, but moved with her family to Anoka as a child. They were the only Black family in Anoka. Like some of the indomitable early-20th-century Black Minnesota women I've mentioned earlier, she graduated from college here (Hamline University, in her case) before leaving the area because it denied her opportunity. She wanted to be a teacher, but 1922 Saint Paul told her it didn't hire Negroes.

It was Minnesota's loss. She left to work at an HBCU in the south, then worked for the YWCA in several states over the next 20 or so years. She worked on fair employment in the 1940s, for the mayor of New York in the 1950s, and ran for city council and Congress there. 

She was the only woman on the decidedly sexist planning committee for the March on Washington in 1963, and according to Brown's article, was responsible for bringing together Martin Luther King Jr.'s planned July march and A. Philip Randolph's planned October march into the single march we now know in August for Jobs and Freedom (with a side of Bayard Rustin organizing). She was also responsible, Brown says, for getting the only woman who spoke that day onto the speakers' list.

She wrote two books along the way, published in 1965 and 1977.

Anna Arnold Hedgeman lived to be 90 years old. She died in 1990 in New York City. What a life.

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