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1966-1984: Desegregating Milwaukee Schools &

By Erika Janik
Standards: 8.1, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.10, 8.12; 12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4, 12.5, 12.13, 12.18
Grade Level: Secondary
Topic: Wisconsin's Response to 20th-century change

Lesson Plan Text:

Introduction: Between 1940 and 1960, Wisconsin's African American population increased by nearly 600 percent, from 12,158 in 1940 to 74,546 in 1960. Drawn to jobs in industrial cities during the war, many African American families encountered segregation in housing, employment, and education. By the 1960s, Milwaukee was one of the most segregated cities in the nation, particularly in its schools.  The Milwaukee chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and attorney Lloyd Barbee led the fight against school segregation in Milwaukee, organizing boycotts, demonstrations, and court cases.  In 1976, after more than a decade of protests and litigation, a federal judge ordered the school board to take immediate steps to integrate the city's schools and in March of 1979, the board agreed to implement a desegregation plan. 


Background Reading:
"Post-war African American Migration"

"Desegregation and Civil Rights"

Document to Analyze: Bisbing Business Research. Attitude Study among Negro and White residents in the Milwaukee Negro Residential Areas (pp. 44-83)

Who, What, Where, When, Why: Bisbing Business Research was hired by the Milwaukee Journal in 1965 to interview residents about major issues facing the city's African American community.  500 people were interviewed (400 black and 100 white) using questions developed by the Journal.  This study was intended, in part, to assess the day-to-day concerns and racial problems of people living in the city.

Related Documents
"Milwaukee's Negro Community." Citizens' Governmental Research Bureau. (Milwaukee: The Bureau, 1946);

"Selma of the North: Milwaukee and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s."

 Student Activities:

1. On pp. 46-56 of the Bisbing research report, what are the main points of black respondents and white respondents?  Summarize the white and the black response to each survey question in your own words. 

2. "If they want kids at a certain school, the families should move there. It's an expense for the public, I'm not for any of it." (p. 83, response 3)  What are the assumptions being made in this statement?  Is this person considering all aspects of school choice?

3. "Forty percent of the Negro respondents and 11% of the White respondents were in favor of racial balance..." (p. 51). Why do you think the majority of African Americans did not want racially balanced schools?  What evidence do you have from the verbatim comments and/or survey results? 

4. Review tables 7-12 on pp. 57-62.  Choose one of the sample groups (geographic area, age group, or income group) and follow this group's answers across all six tables. Do they make a pattern that you can name or recognize?  List your observations.
5. Using these same tables, do you notice any differences within the African American community?  Do the opinions vary by geographic area?  By age? By income? By gender?

6. According to the 2000 Census, Wisconsin's population is roughly 88% white, 6% black, 4% Hispanic, 1% Native American, and 1% other. Does your school reflect the racial and ethnic composition of Wisconsin?  Why or why not? What factors do you think influence who lives in your neighborhood and goes to your school?

7. Imagine you are the administrator for the Milwaukee Public Schools.  Based on the results of this survey and your background reading, what course of action would you recommend? 

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