One of Minnesota's finest, Evelyn Fairbanks
*On this date in 1928, Evelyn Fairbanks was born. She was an African American writer, educator, and administrator.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Fairbanks spent a year in Omaha, Nebraska with her natural mother (Eva Mae Riddle) before resettling in St. Paul with George and Willie Mae Edwards. She attended Mechanic Arts High School and became the first Black employee at Hamline University in St. Paul, as a cashier. Later Fairbanks received a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota at age 40. After the University, she wrote The Days of Rondo, a memoir of growing up in the 1930s and '40s in the thriving Rondo community the largest Black neighborhood in St. Paul.
Published in 1990, the book is currently in its fourth printing. "Days of Rondo" was adapted into a play, as was Everlasting Arms, another piece she wrote about her childhood. During her life, she held jobs as a factory worker, maid, and director of a neighborhood arts center. Fairbanks moved to a 20-acre tree farm near a small town, Onamia, Minnesota after she retired in 1991. Pneumonia in 1993 slowed her down and her breathing was often labored because of asthma. In 1995, she received an honorary doctorate from Hamline.
About that same time, she began her research on black pioneers in rural Minnesota, hoping to compile her research into a book. When she died on March 21, 2001, she was working on a book contract; she was also learning Japanese and lecturing to school-age-children.
Days of Rondo
By: Evelyn Fairbanks
Publisher: MHS Press
Today in American History