March On, Milwaukee | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

March On, Milwaukee

Educator Resources on the Milwaukee Fair Housing Marches for Grades K-12

March On, Milwaukee | Wisconsin Historical Society
EnlargeA man holds a sign that reads, "We Demand Fair Housing Now," while others behind him use a bullhorn.

Protesters for Fair Housing

Milwaukee, Wisconsin View the original source document: WHI 97930

During the 1960s, Milwaukee was an epicenter in the nationwide struggle for civil rights. Activists and community members staged boycotts, led protests, and fought for legal protections against segregation in education and housing. From August 1967 to April 1968, activists marched for 200 consecutive nights to protest segregation in housing in Milwaukee. This movement ultimately led to the passage of the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968, which protects people from discrimination when buying or renting a home.

Since 2016, the Wisconsin Historical Society has partnered with March On Milwaukee 50th and its offshoot, March On, Milwaukee, to commemorate the fair housing movement and to promote education of related local history topics in Milwaukee and beyond. This partnership has contributed to the creation and promotion of the fiftieth anniversary commemorative effort, 200 Nights of Freedom; the development of a traveling display, Crossing the Line: The Milwaukee Fair Housing Marches of 1967-1968; and the collection of a series of oral histories by past and present activists.

To learn more about these projects and the fair housing marches, follow the links below.

EnlargePoster in red, white and blue for Freedom Day School Withdrawal, Monday, May 18th, 1964.

Freedom Day Poster

Poster in red, white and blue for Freedom Day School Withdrawal, Monday, May 18th, 1964. View the original source document: WHI 54099

Educator Resources

From the Wisconsin Historical Society

From Partner Organizations

  • Divided by Design: MKE - curricular materials, resources, and teaching strategies to provide an accurate history of segregation and its consequences for our people and neighborhoods
  • March On, Milwaukee - curricular materials and resources to recognize the past and reignite action in the present
  • March On, Milwaukee: A Digital History Series (Marquette University Center for Urban Research, Teaching, & Outreach) - a series of panel discussions intended for secondary audiences on the history of youth activism in Milwaukee
  • Vel Phillips and James Groppi: The Fight for Fair Housing (PBS Wisconsin) - learn how Vel Phillips and Father James Groppi did not back down while facing Milwaukee's institutional racism in this animated history from Wisconsin Biographies for grade bands 3-5 and 6-8
  • Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams (PBS Wisconsin) - a multimedia educational resource designed to inspire students in grades 9-12 to explore equity and civil rights
  • StoryMaps: Milwaukee (The Redress Movement) - an educational resource telling the local stories of real people and places directly impacted by discriminatory policies and practices of segregation as they occurred on the ground

EnlargeFather James Groppi and NAACP Youth Council members march for fair housing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Fair Housing March

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. View the original source document: WHI 25167

Essay Collections

The webpages below contain excerpts from Wisconsin Historial Society online essay collections, including the Dictionary of Wisconsin History and Turning Points in Wisconsin History collections. These are written for general audiences.

EnlargeA woman and small child are standing on a sidewalk with 'Stop School Segregation' signs.

School Desegregation Pickets, 1964

A woman and child carry CORE picket signs protesting school segregation. View the original source document: WHI 4993

Further Reading

Wisconsin Historical Society Press Books

Wisconsin Magazine of History Articles

EnlargeFather Groppi with Vel Phillips and NAACP Youth Council

Father Groppi with Vel Phillips and NAACP Youth Council, 1967

Father Groppi seen with Milwaukee Alderperson Vel Phillips as well as members of his NAACP Youth Council during a protest in Milwaukee, 1967. View the original source document: WHI 48149


The following speakers are available to request through the Wisconsin Historical Society's Speakers Bureau. Other speakers may be available independently or through other organizations. To request a speaker for your group, please click here.

  • Daphne E. Barbee-Wooten, one of three children of noted civil rights activist Lloyd A. Barbee and editor of Justice for All: Selected Writings of Lloyd A. Barbee, is an attorney specializing in civil rights practicing in Honolulu, Hawaii. Previously, she worked as a public defender and trial attorney and was the first senior trial attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Hawaii. In 2014, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Hawaii NAACP, and in 2016, she received the civil rights attorney of the year award from Sisters Empowering Hawaii.
  • Emil Hoelter is an archivist in the Wisconsin Historical Society's Library, Archives and Museum Collections division. He speaks about the papers of Milwaukee Civil Rights leader Vel Phillips. Emil is based at the Society's headquarters in Madison.
  • James K. Nelsen, author of Educating Milwaukee: How One City's History of Segregation and Struggle Shaped Its Schools, has a Ph.D. in urban history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and teaches high school social studies at Golda Meir School in Milwaukee, a public magnet school for college-bound students in grades 3 through 12. As a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, he finds the history of the city fascinating, from its early days in the mid-nineteenth century to the modern challenges of urban life today. As a teacher, he enjoys researching the history of education from colonial times to the present. When not teaching or researching, he enjoys volunteering with youth groups, exploring his city, and following his beloved Milwaukee Brewers baseball team.
  • Fred Reed was a member of the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council Commandos, leading the struggle for open housing legislation in 1967 to 1968, and served as a member of the March On Milwaukee 50th Anniversary Coordinating Committee. He was the recipient of the Milwaukee Times' 2017 Black Excellence Award and was honored by For My Brothers for his significant contributions to the Black community, and in 2017, he and his fellow NAACP Youth Council members received the Milwaukee ACLU's Lifetime Achievement Award. He brings to this role and to additional community service a lifelong history of work to make the world a better, more just, and safer place.
  • Stuart Stotts, author of Father Groppi: Marching for Civil Rights, a book for young readers in the Society Press's Badger Biographies Series, is a songwriter, storyteller, and author. He performs throughout the Midwest.

EnlargeCrossing the Line Exhibit

Crossing the Line Exhibit

Traveling Display

Partner Organizations & Places to Explore