Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Civil Rights Movement in Wisconsin

Civil Rights Movement in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

 

School Desegregation Pickets, Milwaukee, ca. 1964 (WHI 4993)

The effort to secure constitutionally protected rights abridged at the state and local level by segregationist laws, especially in voting, housing, education, and employment. Black residents of Wisconsin secured the right to vote in 1866 after two decades of struggle, and as early as 1889 Milwaukee black leaders called a state convention that demanded an end to legal segregation in public places and state employment. But not until a sizable African American population formed in Wisconsin after World War Two, and the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, did the modern civil rights movement begin in Wisconsin. Led in Milwaukee by Vel Phillips (q.v.), Lloyd Barbee (q.v.) and Father James Groppi (q.v.), between 1963 and 1968 demonstrations in the city protested segregation in housing and schools; lawsuits filed by Barbee, city ordinances proposed by Phillips, and the passage of federal fair housing legislation finally ended legal segregation in the state's largest city.

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