Interview of Susan Breedlove
Interviewer: 00:04 May I have your first and last name and spell it please.
Susan Breedlove: 00:06 Susan, S-U-S-A-N. My last name Breedlove, B-R-E-ED-L-O-V-E.
Interviewer: 00:13 Alright. Okay. Looking at the map in front of you, do you currently or have you ever lived this near part of north Minneapolis and if so how long.
Susan Breedlove: 00:25 I’ve lived in this area of north Minneapolis. Right now I’m up on 22nd off Broadway and I lived for 20 some years right next to North Community High School, so I’ve been on the north side since 1969.
Interviewer: 00:42 Thinking back to when you first came to this area today, what changes have you seen, either positive or negative?
Susan Breedlove: 00:48 Just in this particular area?
Interviewer: 00:50 Yeah.
Susan Breedlove: 00:53 I haven’t seen that many changes per se, okay? I see a lot of changes in terms of leaving our community, because it used to be if you went north of west Broadway, that if you were a person of color you have somebody else with you because you might get beat up, shot and so forth. You didn’t leave our community here and go across the river over to northeast, because when my husband went over there one time and he got beat up really bad and left at the riverside.
Susan Breedlove: 01:23 So, you didn’t cross the bridge there unless you were accompanied by other people of color. My husband was African American and American Indian and European American, but identified as African American.
Susan Breedlove: 01:37 So, that’s one of the changes in terms of accessibility and the boundaries of where people are accepted. That has changed a lot. Also, the businesses on north Broadway. We used to have a lot of businesses there that we would use. Now there’s not so many.
Interviewer: 01:56 What do you feel caused the changes you’ve seen in the area over the years?
Susan Breedlove: 02:02 I would say neglect, a lot of it economic neglect by the powers to be. Not investing the powers to be and corporations in investing in our community. I would say that we did have some people in the legislature that worked really hard for our community. Like if you go down the river you will see the avenue around the water at Plymouth Bridge is named after James Rice who was real active in the community.
Susan Breedlove: 02:32 People coming out of Ascension Church and other churches were really, really active. But then there was lull where people didn’t ge as much done. A lot of it had to do with the corporations, I would say. Also, the attention paid towards crime in our community.
Susan Breedlove: 02:57 My first husband was murdered in 1970. I found out through the grapevine, that’s how you find out who’s on the north side, who had killed him and the circumstances. My grandson, Jason, was killed, let me see, 19, 20. He was killed about 24 years ago. He was also murdered right over on Plymouth Avenue. And then I just lost my, well he was my step son and my grandson was just killed two years ago on 44th. And I don’t expect they will ever come up with any kind of indictment. It’s crazy cuz they’re people of color.
Interviewer: 03:42 I’m really sorry to hear that.
Interviewer: 03:43 Sorry to hear that.
Susan Breedlove: 03:43 Thank you.
Interviewer: 03:46 So in the city of Minneapolis, there was a lot of trouble going on such as housing, drug wars and transportation. What impact have they had on your family?
Susan Breedlove: 03:59 Well transportation has been one that’s gotten better, but in order to get a job at one time it was really desirable to get jobs out of the central area where we lived, but to get the transportation after the job was done at night, in many places they didn’t used to have buses and stuff so that improved somewhat. What are your other areas that you…housing?
Interviewer: 04:25 Yes.
Susan Breedlove: 04:26 Housing. I think that things are looking up but I also see gentrification happening right now, where I see people coming in. I have neighbors next door to me. It’s very strange to me because I can’t even tell you their name and they have been there over a year. Everyone else on our block and going this way and that way, two ways and behind us, we know everybody, but they just don’t mix in and they just don’t, it doesn’t feel right to have them next door because it’s like their own little world and like maybe we’re, they think they are better than us, or I don’t know. But, I notice the gentrification.
Susan Breedlove: 05:14 The establishment of things like bike lanes in places without any input from people, like my grandson doesn’t ride a bicycle. I mean there’s certain things you have to take care of in terms of safety and that kind of thing and you might not want to as a black male be riding a bicycle up and down, you might be identified as a dope dealer and all that kind of stuff.
Susan Breedlove: 05:40 So, I don’t see those kind of things being attended to. What was the other topic?
Interviewer: 05:46 Discrimination.
Susan Breedlove: 05:48 I mentioned some of the discrimination. I work at Henry High and occasionally at North High right now. I was a substitute. And, I’m pretty much invested in Henry right now. I do all the displays and that sort of thing. The kids up there wanted to change the name of the school because they didn’t want it named after Patrick Henry who was a slave owner. And the discrimination really is blatant.
Susan Breedlove: 06:13 A lot of the kids live down in this area and go to school up there and they wanted to do this, but there are so many haters that attend the meetings, it’s just, I mean you go to a site council meeting and it’s just like ice cold, you know. There’s people my age. I’ll be 78 in May and there’s people that come to these meetings and they’re my age and maybe older and they don’t live in the neighborhood anymore, many of them. But, they don’t want the name changed and they don’t understand the whole concept and I really think that a lot of them are very racist. And it’s very evident at our meetings up there. All the other people on the outside. Discrimination has played a big part.
Susan Breedlove: 07:02 I know, I have a friend that passed away, Jeanie Pettiford, and she and I have both been interviewed at the Library of Congress kinda thing that was done. But, she was saying that being as a white woman, she bought the house while her husband was out of town as a musician. He was one of the very famous Pettifords, Ira and Oscar Pettiford, renowned throughout the world, but Oscar and Ira didn’t buy houses themselves. She bought the house and then when they found of he was black, they tried to get it back from her. So, I know that that was really blatant racism back there.
Susan Breedlove: 07:42 When I buried my husband in 1970, I had to have him buried in the black section of the cemetery that’s located up on Penn Avenue. They’ve changed that now, but if you go up and look up in the Humboldt Avenue side of that cemetery, you won’t find headstones because the plots are so narrow and there wasn’t room for headstones and I don’t know if they even allowed them. They don’t bury people up there any more but us poor whites and people of color that were buried up there. So, if you go on the Humboldt side of the Crystal Lake Cemetery, you’ll see the black section.
Interviewer: 08:24 I’m sorry to hear about that. What changes have you seen in this community that raise your level of stress or concern about its future?
Susan Breedlove: 08:35 Well, I must tell you, I’m not that stressed. I’ve had stressful things happen in my life and I’ve had lots of family and lots of friends in the community and I don’t know that there’s any increase in stress right now. Okay? I really I don’t see it or feel it except the old and the new, I guess we’d say the concept of understanding of what racism is all about. And it’s kind of like the political party disconnects that are happening right now. And I think that causes stress too. And, there’s also stress right now in the relationship to the development in the upper Mississippi River.
Susan Breedlove: 09:22 A former student of mine, Ian Thoveran, that graduated from Henry, started a mushroom factory up there using all the green kind of things that you know everything he does is related to the environment and all good things. A whole plan was made by a group of mostly white individuals as to what they’re going to develop up there. They’re talking about putting a hotel up there, an entertainment center and all that kind of stuff without input of the people. And, so that’s causing stress for people that are aware that that’s going on. And they’re talking about maybe there won’t be room for Ian to have his mushroom factory, which sells mushrooms to all the big restaurants and all that kind of stuff.
Susan Breedlove: 10:07 There’s that kind of stress like who’s in control. And, in this particular situation what they did is, they went and got some people to cover for them and decided, I guess, this is my viewpoint and couple other people. They went to Mr. Copeland, a African American who owned a lot of, had a lot of political finesse and so forth and owned quite a bit of real estate, asked him to be backing them up and then they went and asked Deanna Rogers to have kids go out and interview people. In the interviews that they conducted, I’m a sociology major, I’ve got a Master’s Degree, they didn’t use a type of survey that produces anything that’s really viable. They just went up and put little post cards, “would you like to have an entertainment venue on the Mississippi?” kind of thing.
Susan Breedlove: 11:06 So, they got Roger and Deanna, who are African American, they’re an organization founded by them. They’re wonderful people, but they had some kids do that. So, that’s the stress that I can see. I think if you’ve been through a lot of situations like I have in life, the fact that the police aren’t really following up on my grandson from 2 years ago, that causes some stress to us, but we don’t let it capitalize our lives because it’s kind of like we know this is gonna happen anyway. I mean, we knew that it wasn’t gonna get investigated, this is a black youth, I mean that’s just how you look at something. Well, this is the way it is, so I’m not gonna get all stressed over that.
Interviewer: 11:57 What gives you hope for the future in this community?
Susan Breedlove: 11:59 Oh, the youth. My God, that’s one of the reasons, I mean, I’ll be 78 in May and people say, “How come you’re still in the school?”. So I say, “Well, it’s good to be around the youth because they give you hope.” I’m at Henry, like I said all the time, I went up to North for the National History Day judging and it was so good to see all the people in the community. There was like 15 people that came in from the community that came in to do the judging and visiting with the youth up there. I mean, that brings you hope, I mean, young people aren’t going to sit back and let those things happen that have been happening in the past we are speaking of. That’s what brings me hope. Including my granddaughters. I have 2 granddaughters that work for Oasis for Youth and they have young people finding housing and things that they need and so forth.
Susan Breedlove: 12:49 So, yeah, it’s the youth.
Interviewer: 12:53 When you think about this area today, what impacts do you still see from these historic government policies?
Susan Breedlove: 12:59 Ahh! Well, part of it would be- like, there’s a school that did not allow or did not have or make people feel comfortable, all the people of color or Jewish people up there. So, I don’t know what is biologically inherited if we have some of these vestiges of our past in this, you know. Could you repeat that question so I directly answer?
Interviewer: 13:26 When you think about this area today, what impacts do you still see from these historic government policies?
Susan Breedlove: 13:32 Okay. So, I’m not sure it’s just government policies. I also think it’s private, except that the government probably has put their foot in the door for Crystal Lake Cemetery to change, but don’t you see my grandkids when they go out there to see their grandpa’s grave and it takes them two hours to try to find it. you know, and you realize where your grandpa’s made a very thin, you know, that’s got to have some kind of impact.
Susan Breedlove: 14:06 Also, the whole thing around Olson Highway. That whole housing complex, that’s been renewed I think this is the fourth time that everything was taken down and rebuilt and that’s in fact, Maddie Prince’s mom, she’s a relative of ours, was. That’s where she grew up and Richard Copeland grew up in there and all kinds of people you know grew up in there that had become very well known.
Susan Breedlove: 14:42 But, it’s still, you still feel the effects, I don’t know if there still in the air or not, but anyway, I think it’s more of a feeling. And the government has changed so in the area where it was like, hmmm, they did not allow any black people if you go down Plymouth avenue, you’re going to see these stone markers at the end of each side street. That was because that whole area did not welcome people of color or Jewish people for a long time to go into that area. And so you see those old vestiges that’s still there to remind us.
Interviewer: 15:32 How would you describe the relationship between the city of Minneapolis and this community over the years?
Susan Breedlove: 15:41 I just saw a former alderwoman here being interviewed and that was, she and her family helped the Camden area for a long, long time which is right next to this area. The city government, it depends who was in charge at that time. I look more at the State Government. We have a young man, named Fue Lee who is absolutely wonderful in the House of Representatives that came out of Henry High, he looks at things holistically. I looked at his bills, all that he authored and he co-authored and I highlighted them all and he has thirty bills had to do with healthy living.
Susan Breedlove: 16:32 So, that is a change and it’s got to filter down to the city government because we have the highest rate of asthma in the state in my community of [inaudible
00:16:46]. The city government has put their foot down on the conderator that was right on the river. It still stinks when you cross [inaudible 00:16:56] but
we’re getting rid of some of the factories that were there with the force of the city government do that.
Susan Breedlove: 17:02 The city government has been part of the part of the discrimination. There used to be a River View Supper Club used to be down there, Broadway Pizza, okay, and that was a wonderful nightclub. That’s where Prince and a lot of people came and got their start and a lot of people from the whole United States came and got their start. But, at that time when River View was put up, they weren’t gonna, the city government wasn’t gonna allow Jimmy Fullen to have that because he was black. But then some people on the north side like Nellie Stone Johnson and a gal named [inaudible 00:17:45] Downy and her husband and they put their foot down on the city, so they’ve had to stay on the city government to deal with their policies. It all depends on the years.
Susan Breedlove: 17:59 All the streetcars that we used to have, there was a factory that was down there on the Mississippi and the city government was complacent. They were involved in that, gave a kickback for all the metal that was taken from those streetcars and they went and hooked up with the underworld, the criminals to get all that. So, it depends on who’s in the city government at a certain time.
Interviewer: 18:30 What are your expectations of the city of Minneapolis relative to this community?
Susan Breedlove: 18:36 Well, I think that Mr. Ellison has his head in the right place. He recently asked some of us to get together and discuss what was happening with the river development. I’m on a board called Community Power that looks at reducing the rates. And we’re working with the city government and there’s some people that really are looking forward thinkers and then there’s other who are backward thinkers or don’t think at all. So, I don’t know right now, we’ve kind of a new group right there and we’ll have to see what happens with the new group.
Interviewer: 19:22 What part do you feel you can play in creating that more hope for the future?
Susan Breedlove: 19:26 Well, being part of the Community Power, of course, is part of it.
Interviewer: 19:32 I would like to thank you for your time and answering all our questions which is getting us one step closer to what we need to do to fix Minneapolis.
Susan Breedlove: 19:40 Thank you so very much.
Interviewer: 19:42 Yeah.
Interviewer: 19:42 I appreciate being invited.
Interviewer: 19:43 Yeah. This was an amazing interview and I just love how you and Barbara Johnson you guys are really from the neighborhood and have so much history and roots here, and that just makes the interview even much more inspiring, you know, because we’re growing up on the north side, so these kids really know where we come from and all those amazing stories you shared were just very impactful, so I thank you for that.
Susan Breedlove: 20:08 Thank you for inviting me. I appreciate it. Glad you all have done this.