Lake Adney: A sanctuary to African Americans for nearly 100 years

Lake Adney: A sanctuary to African Americans for nearly 100 years

In Minnesota, spending time at the cabin is no rarity. Good things happen with time spent fishing, exploring or just simply enjoying the lake views. For the last century, one lake in Crow Wing County Minnesota has become more than that. For nearly 100 years, African Americans from all over the country have come to Lake Adney to own a piece of paradise.

Nathaniel Khaliq and his wife, Victoria Davis, purchased property on Lake Adney in the 1980s. Khaliq was president of the St. Paul NAACP for fifteen years until he retired in 2011. Khaliq said he was told about Lake Adney years ago.

“A community mailman, I would see him off and on and ask him, how are you doing? He’d say, I’m doing great. And I’d ask, what you’ve been up to, he’d say he’d been up to paradise. And he would always make reference to paradise, and then I’d ask him a little bit about paradise. He told me about the lake, a little bit about the history of the lake and I said, well you know, we would like to maybe check that out some day,” says Khaliq.

According to Khaliq, during that time period in the 80’s, about 80% of the people living on their side of Lake Adney were black.

“Haven. That was the name of this cabin. And so I just think it was an opportunity for folks to get away from the racism, the discrimination, the stress that some of them were dealing with and generational trauma and so forth. And then to come up here and to be able to spend that time and enjoy yourself with people that cared about you,” continues Khaliq.

As you walk around Khaliq and Davis’s cabin, it is a portal in time. Mementos from the past align the walls and fill the cabinets everywhere. Anything from ornaments, to paintings, to furniture, an absolute testament to the preservation of history.

Philip Mitchell is a current resident on Lake Adney and lives there full time, he is the third generation in his family to take over the cabin.

“There were a few people that knew about this area up north and were trying to get people to come up here and just kind of relax and go fishing and have a good time. Eventually that turned into, we really like it up here. Or maybe we should buy a place and some of those close, close friends of my grandfathers, all of them bought property at one time or another on this lake. I feel very fortunate to have had parents and grandparents who had the foresight to see something that they really enjoyed and put the hard work in to get it to where we are now,” says Mitchell.

According to records, at one time cabins on Lake Adney were owned by African Americans not only from Minneapolis and St. Paul, but also Omaha and Chicago. In addition, a handful of black owned resorts in the area drew vacationers from places as far and wide as New York and California all by word of mouth.

However, the properties and ownership along Lake Adney have changed quite a bit as the decades have rolled by. There are fewer and fewer black cabin owners along its shores than decades ago. Even with the declining numbers of black families in Lake Adney, the legacy still prevails.

Lake Adney is a hidden gem full of history and legacy that is unimaginable. You walk on its grounds and there is a sweet silence that enters through every pore, until you’re not the same person who originally walked on the land. It truly is a piece of paradise. To learn more about Lake Adney, The Minnesota Historical Society has gathered oral histories of some of the African American cabin owners.

See full video here!

“This news report was produced by Amanda Eke at WDIO ABC. The Black Archives of Mid-America is not affiliated with WDIO ABC or the production of this report, but we are pleased to partner with Amanda to share this seminal segment of Black History with the world.”