During the Civil War, an African-American boy fled slavery and became a messenger boy for a Minnesota Officer. The boy, Prince Albert Honeycutt, followed Captain James Compton back to Fergus Falls after the war, where he took on myriad roles, including laborer, barber, baseball player, volunteer firefighter, and eventually, a mayoral candidate in the western Minnesota mill town.
Fergus Falls Sees a Swift Rise in Diversity
Prince Honeycutt, who grew into a pillar in the community, helped settle African-American migrants from Kentucky who arrived en masse in the 1890s. Seemingly overnight, the small town’s Black population grew – and among the families who settled there were the ancestors of musicians who would stir up the Minneapolis music scene and change the world along the way.
Founding Families of the Minneapolis Sound
Known as a member of the 1980s R&B band “The Time” and as a prolific, Grammy-winning producer, Jimmy Jam Harris’ roots stretch all the way to that small Western Minnesota town. His mother, Bertha, was a member of the Tate family, cornerstones of the community and, by the 1960s, the last of these Black pioneer families still living in Fergus Falls.
Referred to as the “First 85,” that initial wave of Black pioneers in Western Minnesota also included the Anderson family. Eventually, the family established new roots in the Twin Cities, where Bernadette Anderson became a pillar of North Minneapolis. Her daughter, Sylvia, is among the descendants who continue to celebrate their rural roots with visits to the family’s former stomping grounds in Western Minnesota, while her son, Andre (Cymone), is a talented musician who became the friend and band mate of a teenaged Prince in the 1970s. Bernadette welcomed Prince into their home when his own domestic life turned rocky, and in the family’s North Minneapolis basement, he would continue to hone his singular music skills.
Andre Cymone and Jimmy Jam helped create wildly popular Minnesota music along with their friend and collaborator, Prince. But they can both point to the FIRST Prince in Minnesota as the pioneer who helped set the stage for the Minneapolis Sound.
Special thanks to Fergus Falls, MN researcher Melissa Hermes.
This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.