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Desegregation and Civil Rights

African Americans in Wisconsin had been struggling for their civil rights for more than a century before the movement began to attract headlines in the 1960s. In 1866, for example, Milwaukee's Ezekiel Gillespie successfully sued for the right to vote, and in the 1930s, William Kelley of the Milwaukee Urban League began to fight for the rights of black teachers to work in the public schools. These early efforts were especially difficult because African Americans made up only a very small percentage of the state's residents before the middle of the 20th century. For information about early civil rights history... more...

Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: African American housing conditions in Milwaukee in 1955  African American housing conditions in Milwaukee in 1955
Link to article: Former slaves who settled in Madison and Racine  Former slaves who settled in Madison and Racine
Link to article: Wisconsin voting and civil rights legislation, 1846-1929.  Wisconsin voting and civil rights legislation, 1846-1929.
Link to article: The KKK parades through Madison in 1924  The KKK parades through Madison in 1924
Link to artifacts: A block-print wall hanging from the Milwaukee Handicraft Project  A block-print wall hanging from the Milwaukee Handicraft Project
Link to book: A 1950 guide to African American businesses  A 1950 guide to African American businesses
Link to book: Wisconsin's African American population from statehood through 1910  Wisconsin's African American population from statehood through 1910
Link to book: A survey of black families in rural Wisconsin, 1959  A survey of black families in rural Wisconsin, 1959
Link to book: The effects of Milwaukee school desegregation efforts, 1992  The effects of Milwaukee school desegregation efforts, 1992
Link to book: Milwaukee residents discuss the city's racial problems, 1965  Milwaukee residents discuss the city's racial problems, 1965
Link to images: Milwaukee civil rights leader, Lloyd Barbee  Milwaukee civil rights leader, Lloyd Barbee
Link to images: Fr. James Groppi leading Milwaukee civil rights demonstrations, 1966-1969.  Fr. James Groppi leading Milwaukee civil rights demonstrations, 1966-1969.
Link to images: Photograph of attorney Byron Paine, ca. 1860  Photograph of attorney Byron Paine, ca. 1860
Link to manuscript: A detailed look at Milwaukee's black community in 1946  A detailed look at Milwaukee's black community in 1946
Link to manuscript: An African American woman describes her migration to Wisconsin in 1917  An African American woman describes her migration to Wisconsin in 1917
Link to manuscript: Wisconsin passes the country's first gay rights law, 1982  Wisconsin passes the country's first gay rights law, 1982
Link to manuscript: William Rasche advocates on behalf of African American workers  William Rasche advocates on behalf of African American workers
Link to places: Segregated company housing takes shape in Beloit  Segregated company housing takes shape in Beloit

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to book: Wisconsin Blue Books  Wisconsin Blue Books
Link to book: Wisconsin celebrates 50 years of black freedom, 1915  Wisconsin celebrates 50 years of black freedom, 1915
Link to collections: Documents relating to the integration of Milwaukee Public Schools  Documents relating to the integration of Milwaukee Public Schools
Link to collections: Explore 400 years of African American history and migration  Explore 400 years of African American history and migration
Link to collections: African American students describe their lives in Milwaukee, 2000  African American students describe their lives in Milwaukee, 2000

Related Links

Discover classroom resources available from our Office of School Services
Search our catalogs for materials on this topic that aren't yet available online.
Borrow books about this topic through our interlibrary loan service
Borrow manuscripts about this topic through our Area Research Center network.
Learn about other topics from our new book, Wisconsin History Highlights
Check the progress of school desegregation, 1968-2000
Visit the Wisconsin Black Historical Society

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