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28 Days of Black History

February is Black History Month, and in many ways, that history is still being written today. Throughout this month, several key Milwaukee Black History makers will be profiled on the City of Milwaukee website’s main page. The prominent online spot will give students and Milwaukeeans across the city a chance to learn about – and to honor – some of the city’s notable and unsung heroes.

Marcia Coggs

American Democratic politician; served in the Wisconsin State Assembly (1977–1993); graduated from UW-Milwaukee.

Donald Sykes

Dedicated his life to fighting poverty at the local, then national level; longtime executive director of the Social Development Commission (1968-1988), Milwaukee County’s largest anti-poverty agency; served as Director of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Community Relations during the Clinton Administration; led the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (now Employ Milwaukee) from 2007–2014.

ReDonna Rodgers

Community leader who focused on youth leadership, training and coaching; she co-founded the Center for Teaching Excellence in 1991, which has helped dozens of local business owners 24 years of age and younger; received a 2010 Fellowship Open Community Leader Award, which is given to individuals whose efforts are focused on improving children’s lives in their community.

Vincent Lyles

President and CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, also a member of the Greater Milwaukee Committee and the Milwaukee Cultural and Entertainment Task Force.

Mildred and Reuben Harpole

Education advocates, “community connectors”; honorary street namesake (Reuben).

Ardie and Wilbur Halyard

Co-founded Columbia Savings & Loan to help African-Americans purchase homes; Halyard St., Halyard Park neighborhood namesakes.

Clarence and Cleopatra Johnson

Opened one of Milwaukee’s first African-American-owned businesses (Ideal Tailor Shop); helped found a branch of the YMCA and Columbia Savings & Loan; Johnson’s Park namesakes.

Vernice Gallimore

In 1946, became the first African-American MPD policewoman; not allowed to return to the MPD after the birth of her first child in 1955, she later became a probation officer with the Children’s Court.

NAACP Youth Council

Founded in 1947 by Ardie Halyard; in the 1960s, organized and participated in civil rights demonstrations against job discrimination and for fair housing.

Gwen T. Jackson

Chair Emeritus of the American Red Cross, Southeast Wisconsin; also active with the YWCA and Milwaukee Urban League; MPS School namesake.

Anderson-Watson Family

The Andersons, William H., his wife, Anne Watson Anderson, and their daughter Emily, are considered the first African-American family to settle permanently in Milwaukee. More Watsons (Anne’s parents and siblings) followed. Mabel Watson Raimey was a descendent of Anne’s brother, William.

Al Jarreau

Born in Milwaukee in 1940, graduated from Ripon College in 1962; award-winning singer who recorded jazz, pop, and R&B songs and won six Grammys across all three categories; best known for the 1981 hit “We’re in This Love Together” and the theme song from the hit TV series “Moonlighting”.

Irene Goggans

Unofficial “historian” and griot of Milwaukee’s African-American community, compiling over 60 years’ worth of newsclippings, photographs, and letters chronicling African-American life in the city; awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Human Letters from UW-Milwaukee in 2015 in recognition of her life’s work.

James Cameron

Lynching survivor; civil rights activist; assisted in protests to end segregated housing in the city of Milwaukee; founder of America’s Black Holocaust Museum (1988), devoted to African-American history from slavery to the present.

Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker-Bronson

Founder of Milwaukee’s internationally renowned Ko-Thi Dance Company; Professor Emerita of Dance at UW-Milwaukee.

Will Allen

Growing Power CEO; 2008 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” winner for his work on urban farming and sustainable food production; awarded an honorary Doctor of Agriculture degree from UW-Milwaukee in 2012; expert in urban agriculture.

America's Black Holocaust Museum

Founded by James Cameron; opened on Juneteenth day, 1988, closed July 31, 2008, online virtual museum launched February 25, 2012. A new physical museum space will be constructed as part of a redevelopment project with the Garfield School Building, 2215 N. 4th St.

Beechie O. Brooks

Well-known real estate developer, one of a group of black realtors to form United Realty and served as its president; helped create and develop the Halyard Park subdivision; was one of the first minorities in Milwaukee to be accepted to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers; awarded the first Frank Fitzpatrick Development Award by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Vel Phillips

First woman and first African-American on Common Council; first African-American judge in Wisconsin and first to win statewide office (Sec. of State); Main sponsor of the city’s open housing ordinance and active in civil rights marches.

Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum

Founded by Clayborn Bension and opened in 1987 with the mission of documenting and preserving the history of African Americans in the State of Wisconsin; became an affiliate of the State Historical Society in 1988.

Annette Polly Williams

The longest-serving female in the Wisconsin State Assembly (10 terms from 1980–2011); known as the “Mother of school choice”.

Eric Von

Milwaukee radio and TV journalist for over 25 years, best known for his morning program “The Eric Von Show” on WNOV 860 AM; also worked for the local NPR station, WUWM 89.7 FM, and was a co-host for Milwaukee Public Television’s “Black Nouveau” and WISN 12’s “It’s Your Vote”.

Welford Sanders

Economic development icon of Milwaukee’s central city; former director of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation, which has made significant contributions to the revitalization of the Harambee neighborhood; also a professor of architecture at UW-Milwaukee.

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