419 Sherburne Avenue is the Charles James home. The three-story home, with its corner bay windows, is missing its original front porch and much of a second floor balcony, so it looks much differently than it did years ago. But it is still a reminder of a remarkable man. James was a member of a pioneer Saint Paul African-American family. He was a local and national leader in the Boot and Shoe Workers Union in the early 20th century.
James became a union leader when the boot and shoe makers were coming into their own in the labor movement. He served three terms as the president of Saint Paul’s Trades and Labor Assembly. The term of office was not long -- six months -- but historian David Riehle tells us that was unusual then for anyone to be elected more than once to the Assembly's top position. James would then serve seven more years as recording secretary of the Assembly.
James and his family were among the city’s African-American elite. He was the labor representative to the Saint Paul Charter Commission. James was involved in civil rights and church groups. He was very popular in the labor movement and in the greater community, and was widely mourned at his death in 1923.