Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History

Fall 2023, Volume 107, Number 1

Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History | Wisconsin Historical Society


Enlargecover photo

Cover Photo

Vocalist Al Jarreau performs at Bla Bla Café in Los Angeles, 1983. His early career in Milwaukee is the subject of this issue’s book excerpt from Never Givin’ Up: The Life and Music of Al Jarreau, by Kurt Dietrich. Available now. NICOLAS PERRIER / DALLE





Featured Story

BOOK EXCERPT – Never Givin’ Up: The Life and Music of Al Jarreau

By Kurt Dietrich

From his earliest days singing in the 1940s until his death in 2017, vocalist Al Jarreau defied categorization. Growing up as part of a musical family in Milwaukee, he developed what would become a lifelong belief in the healing power of music. He established himself as a working musician during his student years at Ripon College and the University of Iowa as well as in nightspots in Milwaukee, the Twin Cities, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. After being signed by Warner Bros. Records in 1975, Jarreau went on to smash music industry stereotypes as the first artist to win Grammy Awards in three genres: jazz, pop, and R&B. In this excerpt from the recent Wisconsin Historical Society Press book, author Kurt Dietrich describes the early days of Al Jarreau’s career in Milwaukee alongside the people who helped him stake his claim in the music industry.

EnlargeBasilica and neighborhood

Basilica and neighborhood

Since its dedication in 1901, Saint Josaphat’s Basilica, on Lincoln Avenue in Milwaukee’s south side, has served not only as a place of worship but also as the center of the community for several generations of immigrants and their descendants. CLIFFORD PRICE

What’s in a Name: Polish Immigration and Ethnic Identity in Wisconsin

By Michael E. Stevens

Joseph A., Joseph M., Boleslaus, and Charles Szedziewski were among the more than one million Poles who moved to the United States between 1904 and 1913. Yet, at this time when the Polish state did not exist, the land where these men emigrated from was part of the Russian empire (modern day Belarus). Upon arrival in Milwaukee, the men adopted new names and began learning English, but some chose Polish-sounding variations of their last name, while one clung to a Russian-sounding version. When asked about what language was spoken in their childhood homes, the men claimed to have spoken different languages (only Polish or only Russian), despite the fact that some of them grew up in the same home. If ethnic identity is primarily understood to be about belonging and not bloodlines, then it is significant that these men affiliated themselves with different ethnic groups. Tragically, one of the men returned to Russia in the 1920s only to be imprisoned; he eventually disappeared in a Soviet work camp in the 1930s, affecting the men who remained in Milwaukee and driving them toward US citizenship and Americanization. This piece explores how ethnicity, often thought to be immutable, can, in fact, be fluid and malleable, and how immigrants’ decisions to stay in or leave their new country are affected, not only by large geopolitical forces, but also by personal and individual experiences. 

EnlargeGreenville beauty culturists

Greenville beauty culturists

Two beauty culturists work on a customer’s hair in this 1940s Black salon in Greenville, Mississippi. COLLECTION OF THE SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE, 2007.

“A Credit to Our City as Well as Our State”: Pressley School of Beauty Culture and the Challenge of Beauty Training in 1940s Milwaukee

By Crystal Marie Moten

Across the nation, the period from the 1930s to the 1960s has been called the “golden age of Black beauty education.” In 1944, when the Pressley School of Beauty Culture opened in Milwaukee, it was the only Black beauty school in Wisconsin. For five years, the Pressley School functioned as an economic and educational gateway for Black working women, during a time when most Black women worked in menial service jobs, out of necessity and a lack of better opportunities. Despite the state’s routine attempts to thwart Black beauticians’ efforts, they continually advocated to create economic possibilities for themselves and other working women. The short but important story of the Pressley School of Beauty Culture reveals the many ways Black working women in Wisconsin advocated for themselves, challenged systemic barriers, and took control over their own labor, in a segregated and increasingly regulated industry. This article is excerpted from the book Continually Working, by Crystal Marie Moten, with a new/suggested introductory paragraph drawn from the book’s prologue. 

EnlargeA Course in Civil Government

A Course in Civil Government

A depiction of the Supreme Court in Francis Newton Thorpe’s primer on American government, ca. 1894. A COURSE IN CIVIL GOVERNMENT (1894)

The 1874 US v. Cook Supreme Court Case in Wisconsin Indigenous History

By James W. Oberly

From the 1830s through the post-Civil War years, tribal members of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin cut pine and sold sawlogs to non-Native sawmills.  The timber came from within the boundaries of the New York Indian Tract (1831-38) and the Oneida Indian Reservation (1838—present). In a series of cases brought before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the US sought to stop tribal logging enterprises. Judges and juries in Wisconsin who heard cases in 1869-1871 sided with tribal loggers and the non-Native purchasers of sawlogs. However, the US persisted and brought a case against non-Native George Cook on appeal to the US Supreme Court. In 1874, the high court ruled for the US that the Oneida Nation had no right to authorize logging on its own reservation lands, and that Cook was illegally holding US property.  The ruling was a blow to tribal sovereignty and paved the way for the allotment policy that was implemented on the Oneida Reservation and on other Wisconsin Native reservations in the years following the 1874 ruling. 

A subscription to the Wisconsin Magazine of History is a benefit of membership to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The current issue, described above, will become available in the online archives as soon the next issue is published.

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