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Dorothy Hall McFarland
*Dorothy McFarland was born on this date in 1908. She was a Black teacher (music and early childhood) and community activist.
Dorothy Hall was born at 996 Iglehart Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. Raised in the Rondo community, her home was later added to the National Register of Historic Places due to her father’s civic leadership. She lived there until she relocated at the age of 95. Her father, Stephen Edward Hall, moved from Springfield, Ill., to St. Paul in 1900. He established a barber shop and was a central figure in the Black community. He served on several political committees and helped to found the St. Paul Urban League. He and his wife, Harriet Hall, raised two daughters McFarland and her younger sister, Ermine Hall Allen. Allen, was the first African American to sing with the St. Paul Opera Company. The two girls inherited their musical talent from their mother, a jazz musician who played organ at Pilgrim Baptist Church, taught piano, and voice lessons at the University of Minnesota.
After graduating from St. Paul Central high school, young Hall lived briefly in Toronto, Ontario, New Haven, Ct. and Mansfield, Ohio. After returning to St. Paul, Hall studied education under the tutelage of Miss Stella Louise Wood. She graduated from the Wood Kindergarten School in 1931. For the next 25 years she taught pre-school at the Wilder Nursery School. A family consumer services advocate, gifted singer and pianist, she also taught music and voice at the Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House in Minneapolis. In 1952, Hall married Albert McFarland who passed away in 1975.
She invested much of her life volunteering for several nonprofits serving the African American community, including the Martin Luther King Center, St. Paul Urban League, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and the St. Paul NAACP. McFarland performed administrative duties at different organizations as a volunteer, and served lunches to underprivileged children. She only stopped once she hit her mid-90s and could no longer live on her own. McFarland was also the godmother to music icon Prince’s mother.
A longtime member of Unity Church, Dorothy Hall McFarland died on June 17, 2017 in St. Paul.