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*Kwame McDonald was born on this date in 1931. He was a Black journalist, administrator, and activist.
From Madison, Wisconsin, he was the son of James McDonald Sr. and Anna Mae Mitchell. As a youth, he was a good student and stand-out athlete (particularly in Volleyball). After high school, McDonald graduated from Central State University, Ohio, with a degree in Political Science. In 1956, while attending the University of Wisconsin Law School, he married Mary Palmer of Dayton, Ohio (a schoolteacher); they had one son, Mitchell, a photojournalist and high school teacher. Also, during this time, he worked for the Urban League of Milwaukee.
In 1959, McDonald moved to St. Paul to work for the Urban League of St. Paul. After arriving, he began work as a journalist and became executive director of the Minnesota State Commission Against Discrimination (1961-1965) and the Governor's Council on Youth (1983-1987). He was an advocate for the Rondo community as well.
McDonald followed this to become the Assistant Director of the School Reform Project of the Center for School Change, Hubert H. Humphrey Public Policy Institute of the University of Minnesota. As a college administrator and instructor, McDonald's lectures included tours at Rutgers University (NJ), New York University, Shaw University (NC), Barber-Scotia College (NC), and Sarah Lawrence College (NY), among others.
As a journalist, he hosted SPNN-TV's “Sports Rap” in St. Paul for many years and wrote countless articles for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder newspaper Insight News and his column “Wise Owl.” He also served as a community columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. He was the author of the book Jim Griffin: Son of Rondo, Swing for the Fences and was working on his Autobiography before he died. McDonald was a consultant for the Kellogg Leadership for Community Change Project, the Ramsey County Community Services Department, Concordia University-Saint Paul (MN), MIGIZI Communications, Inc., and MKB Associates, Inc.
McDonald organized community athletic opportunities for young people and was a pioneer in covering women's sports. His work addressing Gang activity in the 1970s changed and saved many lives. Over the years, McDonald and his son, Mitch, spent hours working with young people in the schools; the ‘Leadership Program’ at St Paul Johnson High School was particularly impressive. His annual Kwanzaa People Awards were legendary; in 2003, African American Registry's founder received one for 'Nia" (purpose).
McDonald and his wife have a collection of papers at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. They include his many activities and her collections as an educator. Elementary teacher Mary McDonald's papers contain yearbooks, newsletters, and photographs relating to the Franklin Magnet School; she died in 2010. The files contain information on school activities and McDonald's interests in the school's neighborhood.
Kwame McDonald died on October 26, 2011. McDonald directed his final words to young people in a farewell message to friends. "Basic thing that I think young people need is self-love and self-confidence," McDonald said. "If you love yourself, you will never let you down. Be who you are, and it will all come together."
Voices That Guide Us interview,
African American Registry