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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, her father was (Joseph) Paul O'Connor who was 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, the University of Minnesota with 2 years of graduate study at, 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’Conner also became a Freedom Rider a small group of many larger groups of 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 28 days in Hinds County and Parchman State Penitentiary. She later 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 also 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 the 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 currently 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.  

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