Remembering Katie McWatt through Arthurs’ Words

Katie McWatt (Photo: Arthur McWatt)

Arthur McWatt is the author of Crusaders for Justice: A Chronicle of Protest by Agitators, Advocates and Activists in their Struggle for Civil and Human Rights in St. Paul, Minnesota, 1802-1985. He is a historian of the African American experience in Saint Paul, and a retired and widely respected history teacher, who worked in the Saint Paul public school system for more than three decades. In his book, he articulates a moving and informative narrative of history that spans over a century, locally and nationally. In the book, McWatt tells about his wife, Katie McWatt, who was a pillar in the Civil Rights Movement in Saint Paul. She passed away April 19, 2010, at the age of seventy-nine.


Katie McWatt was about thirty-three years old when she ran for Saint Paul City Council: In March 1964, civil rights activists Reverend Denzil Carty, Kwame McDonald, and Alpha Adkins convinced Katie McWatt to run for a seat on the St. Paul City Council. There had never been an African-American on the Council in the history of the City. Her experience as an advocate for improved educational opportunities, the hiring of more African-American school staff, lobbyist for non-discrimination in housing, employment of African-Americans in the building trades and a dedication to social justice were critical issues for McWatt.

She had the support of the local neighborhood organizations, the North Central Voters League, and was endorsed by the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL). Her grounding in government process came from her period working with the St. Paul League of Women Voters. She helped organize for the group and also encouraged them to place human rights on their agenda.

McWatt attended numerous coffee parties; door knocked in every ward and had volunteers staff the Katie For Council office located at the intersection of University and Rice Street. McWatt proved to be an excellent campaigner with a good command of the issues, extraordinary energy and a good memory for names and faces. Her husband Arthur and four children Timothy, Stacy, Christopher and Lynn supported her during this busy period.

McWatt’s primary campaign showed that she captured 74 percent of Summit University, 84 percent of her precinct and 32 percent of the City. She became the first African-American to win a St. Paul City Council Primary and her name was placed on the general election ballot. She made a very strong showing and received 38,487 votes in the at-large citywide election; but she lost by less than 2000 votes. (p. 170)

Kathleen (Katie) Curry McWatt was born in Minneapolis to parents Mr. and Mrs. James Howard Curry (Helen Brady). Her sister Jean was eight years older. She graduated from the Minneapolis public schools. She went to the University of Minnesota where she earned her B.A. in Speech and went to the University of North Dakota for additional education in Counseling and Guidance. Her parents were born in Minnesota. Her mother was in the first graduating class from the newly built Minneapolis Central High School in 1914. Her father was a member of a large African American family who were born and raised in Hastings, Minnesota. He moved to Minneapolis, after graduating from Hastings High School, to become an automobile mechanic. He was the secretary of the African American chapter of the Masonic Lodge and an early member of St. Peter’s AME Church. (p. 184)

From: Crusaders for Justice: A Chronicle of Protest by Agitators, Advocates and Activists in their Struggle for Civil and Human Rights in St. Paul, Minnesota, 1802-1985 by Arthur McWatt (Papyrus Publishing Inc.: Brooklyn Park, Minn., 2009)

Anura Si-Asar was born and raised in the historic Rondo community of Saint Paul. He is the copublisher of Papyrus Publishing Inc. with his wife, Rekhet. He coordinates the Imhotep Science Initiatives, an African youth development program at the Cultural Wellness Center. Anura is also a firefighter for the City of Minneapolis.

One Comments

  • Nancy 13 / 02 / 2014 Reply

    thanks for the memories Art…I remember it well
    Nancy Burrus St Anthony Ave

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