In my work at Lakewood Cemetery, I am often asked where the grave of Hubert Humphrey is. It's not hard to miss--his large gravestone stretches across an otherwise undeveloped section of the cemetery, with a small plaza in front of the stone. His signature, recreated in stone and larger-than-life, makes clear the importance of the stone.
It's with good reason that people come to visit Humphrey at the cemetery. Former Vice President under Lyndon Johnson, he was well-loved by progressives across the state and country. He served as the youngest mayor of Minneapolis, and as Senator helped pass a landmark fair employment bill, working closely with both city and rural populations. At age 37, he gave a speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention, which is largely considered the impetus for the Democratic Party to adopt a Civil Rights platform.
As will come as no surprise to anyone, Humphrey's politics didn't emerge in a vacuum. The fight for Civil Rights was on long before this 1948 speech--but it's leaders were predominately people of color, who were still very much excluded from formal electoral politics. (Note that it wasn't until the Voting Rights Act of 1965--which Humphrey helped pass--that racial discrimination was legally banned in voting.) Beginning even before his time as mayor of Minneapolis, Humphrey learned from the tireless local African American leaders who were willing to teach him about their experiences.
This February, in honor of both Black History Month and President's Day, I dove a bit deeper into the lives and works of those Twin Cities African American leaders (also buried at Lakewood) who helped Humphrey develop his Civil Rights platform. You can see the full blog post, "Who Influenced Hubert Humphrey?" on Lakewood's blog.