Photo by Tom Hintgen
African American history came to life at the Fergus Falls Public Library.

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

An exhibit, “Slavery to Today,” ran from April 26 to May 9 at the Fergus Falls Public Library. African American artifacts and artworks, from the collection of Alan Page and his late wife, Diane Sims Page, made up the exhibition “Testify: Americana.”

Page, formerly a star lineman for the Minnesota Vikings, later served as a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Two of Washington, DC’s most famous buildings, the White House and the United States Capitol, were built in large part by enslaved African Americans. The exhibit in Fergus Falls included a photo of an original brick used to build the White House.

A list of persons who were employed to build the Capitol and White House, between 1795 and 1800, contains 122 names labeled “Negro hire.”

Page said he opened the collection to the public, “because we live in a time when social justice and racial justice are at the forefront. We thought it was important for people to understand and see where we’ve come from.”

The exhibit started in 2018 with a goal to generate conversation and to move people to action. “Many people who grew up in Minnesota had heard about many of these things but never experienced them,” Page said.

County residents, having found themselves in the public library room with objects from African American history, gained a new understanding. With the name of the exhibit being “Testify,” people could express their feelings in real-time while they were viewing the exhibit.

Adds Alan Page, “We have found that our exhibit has moved people beyond reflections into actions, bending the moral arc toward justice. With determination we can make the world a better place in which to live.”