Archival video footage offers an amazing glimpse into the past that provides context for today. During my time at CBS, it was a joy to watch my colleagues pull together last-minute packages celebrating the lives of luminaries or tying in segments from the past into segments that better inform the public about major issues. Recently, CBS Minnesota affiliate WCCO stumbled upon a historic moment of its own making with a video depicting the one and only Prince Rogers Nelson way back in 1970, when the future music legend was just 11 years old.
In the video, Prince can be seen advocating for the educators who helped shape him into the icon he became. “I think they should get a better education too,” Prince said, “And I think they should get some more money cause they work, they be working extra hours for us and all that stuff.” At the time, the 4,000-person strike was considered illegal and, ultimately, heroic. Teachers were immediately fired, many of whom risked their pensions to advocate for smaller class sizes and better funding. The strike lasted 20 days and, as Minneapolis Public Radio reports, led to the passage of the Public Employment Labor Relations Act allowing public workers to collectively bargain and strike under certain circumstances.
The historic 1970 strike reflects tensions in Minneapolis today, where teachers recently went on strike for nearly three weeks in protest of similar issues, including limiting class sizes, raising salaries, and providing additional support to students as well as teachers of color. As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes, the strike itself shook up the district, with a school board member resigning, the head of human resources leaving, and the superintendent announcing that they too will leave this summer.
But the nature of the strike is ultimately something that Prince would’ve easily supported given his long history of both championing the working class and supporting the community that shaped him, along with donating to causes that have the opportunity to shape future leaders in the arts and beyond. The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder highlights the donations Prince gave in the 1980s to Westside Preparatory teacher Marva Collins, whose students were offered a chance at equitable learning in Chicago not typically seen in vulnerable communities like Garfield Park. Collins would later be featured in Prince’s music video for his hit song, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.”
As for how WCCO verified the incredible footage they stumbled upon, the station was able to get a specialist to extract the audio and took the footage to a historian who further verified it was Prince. WCCO then met with a childhood friend of Prince and his wife, who also grew up with the superstar musician. They easily recognized Prince and the moment of seeing the footage was an emotional one. Terrance Jackson, who was not only friends with Prince but played in his first band, grew teary-eyed and, finally, joyous at the video. It’s rare to see Prince so young—the historian who verified the footage said videos like this are practically nonexistent—but the sight is a welcomed one to music fans and champions of labor alike.