A long, starched white barkeep’s apron falls previous the knee. White button-down collared shirt, gold marriage ceremony band popular on the left ring finger. Two barmen in action, each in white shirts and black neckties. The bar is hopping.
A few handsome Black gentlemen in overcoats, ties, fedoras, and patterned scarves surround Anthony Brutus Cassius. They are hunting fly, and they know it. They are hunting like they’re smelling superior. The bottoms of the cocktail glasses they clutch are practically mirrored in their Florsheims.
Cassius’s correct brow, arched a little bit, says, “I’ve got this.” Take care of. The 50 percent-smile reveals self-confident arrival. But there is anything else, far too.
In this historic picture from the John F. Glanton Collection at the Hennepin County Library, Cassius appears to be like poised for action. There’s a spring-loaded vitality to his entire body. Although his extremely again appears to prop up the bar—and even though you by now know he’s the gentleman who owns this place—there’s disquiet in his deal with, far too. In his stance. It’s ready to go to any length to retain his ft firmly planted on that porcelain mosaic flooring, alongside with the ft of these all around him.
Welcome to Cassius Bar and Playroom. Downtown Minneapolis. 1940s.
It did not come straightforward.
Minister Samuel Robert Cassius handed his two teenage sons, Anthony Brutus and Benjamin, considerably less than $fifteen. Possibly it was $seven each, possibly it was $seven between them. Accounts range. He will have to have explained anything like, “This is all I can do for you.” Or, “This is the finest I can do for you.” In any case, the when enslaved father—the product or service of an enslaved woman and the white gentleman who owned them both—sent his two sons north, absent from the 380-acre Meridian, Oklahoma, farm the place they were being lifted.
In addition to the number of bucks, Anthony Brutus Cassius carried a sheepskin diploma—proof of his graduation from junior significant. It was an really exceptional accomplishment for Black young children in the South, who were being discouraged and often barred from going to faculty then. Anthony Brutus and Benjamin’s father was also educated and was recognised not just as a preacher but as an educator, farmer, entrepreneur, postmaster, and politician.
The year Benjamin and Anthony Brutus headed north was 1922. The year before, just one of the wealthiest Black communities in the country, Tulsa (household to the Greenwood neighborhood, AKA Black Wall Avenue), just ninety miles east of Meridian, was attacked by white mobs who killed as numerous as 300, injured hundreds much more, and decimated the metropolis. It’s approximated that 191 firms and one,256 houses—1,447 flourishing Black spaces—were extinguished.
Cassius started to organize, which was a tough undertaking in the Black community, whose customers were being rightly scared, as pre-1950 Minneapolis was fervently anti-union.
Anthony Brutus and Benjamin emerged from the train at Union Depot at the foot of the Kellogg Boulevard hill, abutting the Mississippi at downtown St. Paul’s riverbank—though they considered they had arrived in Minneapolis. They trudged up the hill, probably hungry, undoubtedly exhausted, probably scared.
At the leading stood the Retailers Lodge, with a “Porter Wanted” sign hung up. Anthony Brutus walked in and requested for the job, with Benjamin ready in the wings. Since Anthony Brutus had nowhere else to go, the hotel owner offered a mattress in the basement. Anthony Brutus Cassius took the gig and the mattress.
By the time Cassius graduated significant school—a soccer star at the leading of his class—he’d lived and worked for three years at the Retailers. He should really have been university-sure.
“But the prospect of a Black gentleman having a scholarship to a university was nil. There just wasn’t just about anything,” he explained in his 1981 oral history job interview carried out for “Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota,” a venture now in the Minnesota Historic Society oral history collections.
Just one of the number of job tracks for Black gentlemen was the ministry, which would have had him next in the footsteps of his father. So, with the enable of his soccer mentor, Cassius enrolled at Macalester’s divinity faculty on a reduced tuition. But soon after a year, Cassius—now married with two kids—decided to go away faculty and seek function, eventually putting him on the path to getting a minister of a distinct type.
“Here’s the areas you worked at [if you were being Black],” Cassius remembers in that oral history. “The Athletic Club, the Elks Club, The Curtis Lodge. Most of the people were being either functioning there or on the railroad as Pullman porters. […] Younger-Quinlan’s Business and Dayton’s—they employed no Blacks. So, you either worked in the hotel and cafe field or you worked on the railroad.”
Cassius selected the previous, The Curtis Lodge, at the time regarded an excellent job for Black gentlemen. While the all-Black group of waiters at The Curtis was welcome to function for $seventeen for every thirty day period (in contrast to the group’s white counterparts’ $75 at equivalent motels), they certainly were being not permitted to keep or dine at the hotel, which had the tagline “Where the Visitor is King.”
“I explained, ‘This is no way of everyday living.’ I learned that the white waiters downtown at the Radisson, the Nicollet, the Minneapolis Club, and the Athletic Club were being all paid out $75 a thirty day period. I considered, ‘This just cannot be correct, we functioning listed here ’cause our faces are Black for $seventeen a thirty day period!’”
Alongside one another, the unions were being a formidable bargaining force. With the backing of the Teamsters, the city’s strongest and finest-recognised labor union (popular for the Minneapolis Truckers’ Strike of 1934), Cassius’s firm gained again wages to the tune of $500 for some of the members—enough to obtain a house at the time. He remained lively in the labor movement during the Despair and past, altering the harmony of electricity in Minneapolis.
But outside the house of household and function, there were being nonetheless few—if any—places for Black people to socialize apart from picnics or socials at north Minneapolis’s storied community centre, the Phyllis Wheatley Dwelling.
Prior to that tough-attained picture of Cassius functioning his namesake bar, a pivotal instant:
“I went to the Midland Lender,” Cassius recalls in the oral history.
“We ain’t hardly ever loaned but just one coloured gentleman no dollars due to the fact I have been listed here. . . .What do you want?” Cassius remembers the vice president indicating.
“Ten thousand bucks,” Cassius explained.
As Cassius remembers it, the VP laughed in his deal with, to which Cassius responded by asking to converse with the president, which inspired even much more laughter. But he persisted and eventually finished up in the president’s place of work. As Cassius tells it, fifteen minutes later on, he and the president, Mr. Ueland, emerged—Ueland with his arm all around Cassius’s shoulder.
“Take Mr. Cassius over there and draw him up a take note,” Mr. Ueland advised the fellows who’d just moments earlier mocked Cassius. “We’re going to go alongside with him for $10,000.”
“They appreciated to die!” Cassius laughs of the instant in the oral history.
Cassius left Midland Lender that working day in the late 1940s with the bank loan that intended victory soon after a two-and-a-50 percent-year battle—Cassius was formally the first Black gentleman to secure a total liquor license from the Town of Minneapolis.
Welcome to Cassius Bar.
“I think it is really significant that Cassius came to Minnesota fleeing racial violence in Oklahoma,” says Kirsten Delegard, historian and co-founder of the Mapping Prejudice Task, a entire body of investigate exhibiting the structural barriers that prohibited people who were being not white from obtaining house and setting up prosperity in The us for most of the past century. “He came correct at the beginning of the nineteen twenties, correct soon after Tulsa erupted. You know, just one of the most infamous episodes of racial violence in American history.”
“Cassius arrived in St. Paul at a instant the place race relations in the Twin Cities were being really not race relations, but white resistance to the existence of Black people really expanding and having much more arranged.”
-Historian Kirsten Delegard
As a porter at the Retailers Lodge, Cassius performed obligations like polishing spittoons and bathrooms for his area and board. Concerning function and sleep, he eventually designed his way to Pilgrim Baptist Church, just one of the number of obvious protected areas to find community and a third area if you were being Black in a pre–civil rights The us.
“This was a prejudiced town, St. Paul/Minneapolis. About the only factors you could do was go to faculty,” explained Cassius in the oral history.
The year of Cassius’s arrival in 1922, Black people designed up considerably less than one percent of the Minnesota inhabitants (a determine that continued into the 1950s). Nonetheless the state’s establishments were being by now restricting the place Black people could stay, function, and consume. By 1910, the first racial covenants had by now been drawn in Minnesota—language within deeds that reserved land for the exclusive use of white people.
“Cassius arrived in St. Paul at a instant the place race relations in the Twin Cities were being really not race relations, but white resistance to the existence of Black people really expanding and having much more arranged,” says Delegard.
And but, by 1937, Cassius had managed to obtain the setting up at thirty eighth Avenue and 4th Avenue South. He named it the Dreamland Café and turned it into a modest storefront providing very simple meals and 3.2 beer. At that time, if you were being Black in Minneapolis, your everyday living was restricted to the Previous Southside, the place the Dreamland stood the Around North Side an region all around Hiawatha Avenue and the region we now simply call Cedar Riverside. According to Delegard, these were being the only areas you were being legally permitted to stay. And, she says, the covenants, in conjunction with redlining, “did the work” of Jim Crow in the North.
In segregated Minneapolis, no Black people were being welcome in downtown places to eat or motels, such as touring musicians or other famous people who came to entertain white audiences. So they went to the Dreamland, and then private households in the region, to sleep, consume, consume, and engage in. Lena Horne and Frankie Lymon famously frequented the café.
The Dreamland truly was just that—a area the place people could don a modern fedora, clutch a beer glass, be protected, and take it easy long adequate to desire. Possibly of a superior place—a area the place the insidious tentacles of “Jim Crow of the North” could not slither in to stifle and choke.
“People often question me as a historian, if I could go again in history, the place would I go, what would I see? And I think I would go to the Dreamland Café in the thirties,” says Delegard.
In an significantly racially constricted Minneapolis, the Dreamland Café was the rhythmic nucleus of the Previous Southside. The setting up nonetheless stands, and even today is buttressed by barbershops and areas of worship. The headquarters for the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder, the state’s oldest Black-owned newspaper, is correct across the road. Delegard calls the region “incredibly central” to Black cultural, business, and political life—the “commercial backbone” of the Black community.
Dreamland was a area with outdated heads posted up outside the house participating in chess or chilling in a folding chair with an ass pocket of whiskey, chopping it up and looking at the globe go by. It was the area with just the correct lineup of blues on the juke, the place the ceiling lover lower through a brew of humidity, fryer grease, and the sweet anticipation of superior times, mixing it all into the heady alchemy that will make a superior place the place. And powering the bar, Cassius—the mayor of the Previous Southside, the Godfather of Black social area in Minneapolis.
“Did you ever see the motion picture The Godfather?” inquires Cassius’s grandson Suluki Fardan. “You recall how people would come to [Don Vito Corleone] and they requested him all types of concerns and stuff like that? You have business leaders, community leaders coming to him and asking for advice? That reminded me of Grandpa!”
Dreamland was buzzing at the height of World War II, which signifies that even though Cassius was operating his business, filling an essential void for his community, the governing administration had other suggestions. The Dreamland was deemed nonessential to the war exertion, even nevertheless equivalent white-owned firms were being permitted to operate as necessary. Cassius had to simultaneously place in total-time function at a St. Paul defense plant, presenting him just a number of several hours of sleep each night.
And nonetheless, he was significantly from concluded. As he had often performed, Cassius appeared electricity in the eye, brow arched, and kept on punching. When I first imagined him, he was Richard Roundtree in Shaft. I pictured him in a restricted Afro and leather-based jacket, kicking down doorways and taking no mess from white people—a badass.
But Cassius was a distinct variety of badass—one that kicked down doorways to accomplish a hell of a ton much more than any Blaxploitation stereotype.
It was the area with just the correct lineup of blues on the juke, the place the ceiling lover lower through a brew of humidity, fryer grease, and the sweet anticipation of superior times, mixing it all into the heady alchemy that will make a superior place the place.
Don’t forget how no Black person had ever been granted a total liquor license in Minneapolis? When he first utilized, Cassius was advised that Black people were being only permitted to run barbecues, shoeshine parlors, and barbershops. No Black person had ever legally owned and operated a bar in downtown Minneapolis. And, Delegard advised me, when Black people utilized for any license in Minneapolis, they had to show that they were being not going to use their business for “immoral needs.”
“Several times I had the FBI seeking to know if I was a communist, and when I’d joined,” Cassius noted in the oral history. “And when I utilized for this liquor license in 1942 they brought up that I had been to Russia less than the Five-12 months Plan.”
He had not.
“They brought out every little thing to retain me from having a license.”
Even gangster Kid Cann and his liquor syndicate advised the Town Council Licenses Committee—in Cassius’s presence—that the liquor business was a white man’s.
When that picture was taken, Cassius Bar and Playroom, at 207 South third Avenue, was at its apex—a centre of community, recognised as a area the place people of the two races could combine and mingle properly and peacefully. In 1958, thanks to neighborhood redevelopment, the bar moved to 318 South third Avenue, the place it remained right up until 1980.
Cassius, ever current, ever obvious-eyed, ever vigilant, ensured that his bars were being protected and superior-vibing gathering places for all. Black people, indeed, but white people far too, such as, thanks to its proximity to the police station, cops and thanks to its proximity to the courthouse, judges and legal professionals and thanks to Cassius’s numerous connections, politicians, journalists, and touring famous people. There was no area like it in Minneapolis before or soon after.
Just three years soon after Cassius Bar shut permanently, so did Cassius the gentleman.
He kept his ft firmly planted on that porcelain mosaic flooring for 40 years. As did so numerous countless others—feet shod in Florsheims and stilettos, Nikes and flats, properly-heeled and not so a lot.
With his barkeep’s apron endlessly ready for action, come what may possibly, he ministered to thousands. His way.
Initially released in the July 2021 situation.