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Arthur and Edith Lee House facts for kids

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Arthur and Edith Lee House
Arthur and Edith Lee House, July 2014.jpg
Arthur and Edith Lee House, 2014
Arthur and Edith Lee House is located in Minnesota
Arthur and Edith Lee House
Location in Minnesota
Arthur and Edith Lee House is located in the United States
Arthur and Edith Lee House
Location in the United States
Location 4600 Columbus Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Area less than one acre
Built 1923 (1923)
NRHP reference No. 14000391
Added to NRHP July 11, 2014

The Arthur and Edith Lee House is a historic home located in the Field neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The home itself was built in 1923 and has similarities to kit houses common to the era.

History

In June 1931 the home was purchased by Arthur and Edith Lee, an African-American couple. At the time the surrounding area was considered to be a "white neighborhood." Several years prior in 1927 hundreds of property owners in the area had signed a contract with the neighborhood association pledging to not sell or rent their property to non-whites. When the Lees moved in July 1931 they were approached by the neighborhood association and offered more than they paid to sell the home back. After the Lees declined neighbors began to harass them by shouting threats and insults, posting offensive signs in their yard and throwing garbage and excrement on their lawn.

The unrest escalated over the next several days as crowds growing into the hundreds and later thousands continued their campaign of harassment by shouting slurs and throwing rocks at the home. Local police were sent to maintain the peace but offered little additional support to the Lees. On July 16 the Minneapolis Tribune broke a media blackout on the situation with a front-page story entitled "Home Stoned in Race Row." Arthur Lee, a World War I veteran, was quoted in the article as saying "Nobody asked me to move out when I was in France fighting in mud and water for this country. I came out here to make this house my home. I have a right to establish a home." The publicity from the article generated even larger crowds as well as onlookers. All available police in the city were called to form a cordon around the house and ensure nearby streets were not blocked by the mob.

Discussions with the neighborhood and community leaders during this unrest had been unproductive with the Lees' attorney advising them to say they were planning to leave to quell the unrest. The Lees were members of the local NAACP chapter and reached out to them for assistance. Lena O. Smith, the chapter's president, offered legal assistance and argued the Lees should remain as a statement that they would not be intimidated. The Lees accepted Smith's counsel and she drafted a statement published in all of the local newspapers noting that "[Mr. Lee] has no intention of moving now or later, even after we are assured the feeling in the district has subsided." Smith's assertive public statement combined with the strong police presence quelled the rioting.

The police presence remained at the Lees' house for more than a year thereafter; the Lees' daughter was escorted to and from school by police. In 1934 the Lees moved from the home to the historically black Central neighborhood.

Interest in the home's history was renewed in 2001 when a law professor published an article on the Lees' second attorney, Lena O. Smith, including her role in the event. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 on the basis of its significance to the social history of African Americans and housing discrimination in Minneapolis.

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