Roper Center collection remembers, amplifies Black voices

In 1946, the Minneapolis Tribune’s Minnesota Poll billed itself as “an impartial, scientific weekly survey of what Minnesotans think on leading topics of the day.”

In addition to questions about Victory Gardens and political candidates, one of the polls – now archived by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell – asked white residents whether Black people should be allowed to move into any neighborhood; how a Black family moving nearby might affect home values; and if respondents would rent or buy a home previously occupied by a Black family.

Floyd protester

Roper Center/Provided

A protestor in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

The poll offers a glimpse of systemic racism that nearly 75 years later, sparked by George Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police, has become the focus of national protests and calls for reform.

To honor that movement, the Roper Center has launched “Say Their Names. Hear Their Voices,” a publicly available collection of more than 80 years of public opinion surveys of Black Americans and U.S. attitudes about Black America, presented with context about race in polling over the years.

“We hope this collection advances historical knowledge, amplifies Black public opinion and proclaims Black Lives Matter,” said Peter Enns, professor of government in the College of Arts and Sciences and executive director of the Roper Center.

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