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Minnie Harrison Steele

Minnie Harrison Steele

University of Minnesota Alumnus and Expense Analyst

Born: Monroe, LA, United States
Heritage: African American

The best advice that I can give you is to always remember to do something for someone else because it makes you a better person. All of the little things that you can do for other people are very important.

Minnie Harrison Steele

University of Minnesota Alumnus and Expense Analyst

My name is Minnie Harrison Steele and I was born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1945. I came to Minneapolis as a child and would have been considered part of the great Black migration North from the South. My father’s name was John Harrison and my mother's name was Marguerite. My father was a serviceman in World War II. When he came home he worked in a steel mill as well as several other different jobs, sometimes two and three at a time. My mother stayed at home and took care of the family. She raised the children and she sewed. She was very good at that as well as cooking and baking. She passed away when I was only four years old.

I am in the middle of what you would call a blended family. I have two brothers, a half-sister and two stepbrothers. I grew up with a lot of boys and that was kind of a pain because I wasn't real athletic. I tried to keep up with them but all I did was get in trouble because I would tear my dress. In the warm weather we liked to go to the beach and we would ride our bikes all the way from the Theodore Wirth Parkway, around Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and all over the place. I had a great-aunt who raised my mother and she lived in the country outside of Monroe, Louisiana, so I would spend a lot of my summers with her so we could visit that side of our family.

I received the majority of my education here in Minneapolis. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school and at that time I was one of the very few children of color at that school. That was difficult because there were some students and teachers who were prejudiced and hard to deal with. I was probably about your age or maybe a little older when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. That was really the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. I had the opportunity when I was a young woman to actually meet her here in Minneapolis when she came and gave a speech at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

Growing up we had some fun times playing basketball in school with the nuns. They would wear their habits, rosaries and their hard shoes while playing. Some of them could really shoot the basketball and it was pretty fun. I actually enjoyed going to a high school that was all girls. We were probably a lot goofier because we didn't have any boys around and we enjoyed each other's company. I enjoyed playing volleyball, being on the debate team and I had a lot of fun singing in the chorus. We actually made a recording one time and that was pretty cool to go to a real recording studio.

It was a great joy to me to have children. I have a daughter named Vanessa and she works for the University of Minnesota and she is also working on her PhD at the moment. I really, really love being a mother and I love being a grandmother. I enjoy spending time with my grandson, Ayinde. We do a lot of fun things. We go to the Walker Art Center, to plays, to movies and we have nature walks. I have a lot of friends. I work for Target Corporation in downtown Minneapolis in their finance division.

I have recently done some international travel and I'm very interested in South Africa. I have been to South Africa twice now. South Africa was an important place to a lot of African Americans because they were very involved in fighting against the Apartheid system that existed. South Africa is a beautiful country but there are a lot of people that are poor. So some of the beauty is offset by the poverty of the people because they don't have enough to live on and they don't have proper homes. Some of the schools were nothing but a dirt floor and a tent where they taught the little kids. So you guys are really lucky to have a nice school.

The most important thing I learned was that people can really overcome something as difficult as Apartheid if they work together. The people of South Africa have a great spirit. They are all working together no matter what their color or what their background because they want to have a good country.

Notation: Download PDF

Always Remember

Honoring Minnie Harrison Steele

Always Remember
(Honoring Minnie Steele)

Always remember to do for someone
As you want to be done for yourself
Always remember
It makes you better
When you help someone else

My name is Minnie
When I got married
I took the name of
Minnie Harrison Steele
Near the Delta
Traveling on the great
Migration north
When I was your age
I remember
Mrs. Rosa Parks
Refused to give up
Her seat
And move to the back of the bus
My parents told me
That I had to
Work twice as hard as everyone else
So I tried to
Got good grades
In an all girls Catholic School
My home was blended
With sisters
And brothers from different
Moms and dads
I tried to keep up
With my brothers
And tore my dress
Playing basketball
Went to college
Got educated
At the University of Minnesota
Expense planning
Finance division
Is what I do for a living today
I went to Capetown
Where people suffered
From segregation
Like way down south
Children schooled
On dirt floors
Doing the best they could
To learn without
Working together
For the people
To have a roof over our heads
Working together
To build a country
Where everyone has a safe, warm bed

Words and music by LARRY LONG with Mrs. Basant’s 4th grade class of FAIR School
(Crystal, Minnesota)

© Larry Long 2008 /BMI