Firsts: Minnesota’s African American Groundbreakers, is a collaborative endeavor made possible thanks to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The Humanities Center in partnership with the Council on Black Minnesotans has developed a series of interviews with African American Minnesotans to capture what it means to be a "First." These interviews are hosted and produced by award winning author Alexs Pate and co-produced by the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network ("Building Community through Television"). Alexs Pate is the author of five novels including Amistad: The Novel. The Past Is Perfect, his forthcoming memoir, will be published next year. He is an Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota and has collaborated with the Humanities Center on a variety of projects. The Council identified an original group of 40 Minnesotan groundbreakers from which six were ultimately selected. Segments from this program featuring Sharon Sayles Belton, Arthur Blakey, Jr., Linda Finney, William Finney, Archie Givens, Jr., and Robyne Robinson can also be seen on the Minnesota Humanties Center's Absent Narratives Resouce Collection. These speakers share in vivid detail their experience of being a true Minnesota "First."
In May 2009, the Minnesota State Legislature asked the Council on Black Minnesotans and the Minnesota Humanities Center to collaboratively create new programs and events which would celebrate and preserve the artistic, historical, and cultural heritages of Minnesota’s Black community.