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Sat, 07.25.1942

Claire O’Connor, Activist born

Claire O'Connor

*Claire O’Connor was born on this date in 1942.  She is a white-American educator, artist, and civil rights, activist.  

From St. Paul, Minnesota, her mother was Justine Claire O'Connor, part of the Foot lineage, and her father was (Joseph) Paul O'Connor, born in Dingle peninsula, Ireland.  Both of her parents were early settlers in Red Wing, Minnesota.  After high school, she received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota with two years of graduate study at the University of Indiana.

During this time, O’Connor worked on voter registration and many educational and community organizing projects, first with COFO in 1964 and with SNCC until May 1965.  O’Connor also became a Freedom Rider, a small group of many larger young people in the 20th-century American Civil Rights movement.  Her group took buses to Batesville, MS, and were arrested for trying to integrate a lunch counter. "We were initially arrested for disturbing the peace and singing without a license. The latter charge was dropped as soon as they realized that our singing wasn't that bad. Well, actually it wasn't a crime, so charges were dropped". She was jailed for 28 days in Hinds County and Parchman State Penitentiary. She said, "We didn't integrate the lunch counter, but we did integrate the jail cells."  (Image: O'Connor is second from the right)

After her release, she left Mississippi determined to continue the movement by working with poor families and teens in inner-city Minneapolis and St. Pau, Minnesota.  After marriage and emigrating to Saskatchewan, she worked with street kids, teen prostitutes, and battered women.  She earned her M.A. in Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Indiana University, and the University of Manitoba.  I earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Regina with a special interest in Educational Psychology and Adult Education.  When O’Connor returned to Minnesota (after 25 + years), she worked to help teens get pregnancy and STD protection, helped others provide legal services for low-income families and individuals, and as part of a community development/organizing nonprofit, worked to engage and mobilize residents to ensure a healthy and safe community.  She was part of founding a community-based alternative school called Freedom House School in northeast Minneapolis, the first in Minnesota.  

Regarding her racial justice work in the American South, She says: I could never recount everything it meant and still means to me. Those experiences both humbled me and made me proud. I had the opportunity to work with some of the most determined and brave people I have ever met, the residents and members of the Movement in Panola County, Mississippi.  She is producing and teaching pottery, though social/political issues are never far from her thinking and acting.  O’Connor’s studio is located at Northern Clay Center.   She also teaches senior adults at Hopkins, MN. Community Education Center.  

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

Black is what the prisons are, The stagnant vortex of the hours Swept into totality, Creeping in the perjured heart, Bitter in the vulgar rhyme, Bitter on the walls; Black is where the devils... THE AFRICAN AFFAIR by Bruce M. Wright.
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