29 Days of
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.
One of Milwaukee’s African-Americans making history as a journalist who had a long career at the Milwaukee Journal and Journal Sentinel, first as a reporter, then as an editorial writer and columnist for 19 years before retiring in 2007. He often wrote about racial segregation and other social justice issues, and in the 1970s he and Joanne Williams organized the Wisconsin Black Media Association, a local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Thornton-Bias is just the second woman (and first woman of color) to lead the organization since it was founded by Annabell Cook Whitcomb in 1887.
First African American floral shop in Milwaukee, established in 1983, located at 3825 N. Teutonia Avenue.
The First African-American woman in the country to be CEO of Foundations for Freedom, a Milwaukee organization that works with area women and girls at risk of being caught up in human trafficking. She is also chairwoman of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee.
Stepped into a newly created position in the City of Milwaukee as the first African American to hold the position of Director of the Office of Violence Prevention. Moore is also the founder and former Executive Director of the Center for Youth Engagement, a local service agency for under-served youth.
John Ridley IV
Born in Milwaukee, Ridley is one of Milwaukee’s finest when it comes to creating film and television. The director and screenwriter, who won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film “12 Years a Slave,” is also a novelist, whose book Spoils of War was adapted into the film “Three Kings.”
Author of the 1897 memoir Thirty Years a Slave: From Bondage to Freedom, which was published in Milwaukee, Hughes is considered to be Milwaukee’s first African-American author. He lived in Milwaukee for over 40 years working in the local hotel industry.
JoAnne and Maanaan Sabir
Making history in Milwaukee as the first African-American husband and wife owners of The Juice Kitchen juice bar located in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood. JoAnne is also co-developer of the Sherman Phoenix, a new business and wellness hub in the Sherman Park neighborhood.
John H. Givens III
In the 1960's, Givens was the co-founder and chair of the city's CORE—Congress of Racial Equality, and also was active with the Youth Council and NAACP. In 1965, CORE won a case in the WI Supreme Court which ruled that protestors had a right to demonstrate peacefully without being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. In 1968, Givens accepted Mayor Maier's offer to join his staff and head the Model Cities program, which secured federal funds to build and rehab housing units and make other public improvements.
The first African American woman in Milwaukee to be a development founder as President of Maures Development Group, LLC and has served as Vice-President of J. Jeffers & Co. Notable building projects that she has overseen include The Griot Apartments/America’s Black Holocaust Museum and the Mill Road Library redevelopment.
Community activist who lived in Milwaukee from the late 1920s until her death in 1985. She was often referred to as “the mother of the black community,” and was an original member of the Milwaukee Commission on Human Rights formed in 1944. The Lindsay Heights neighborhood was named in her honor.
Martha "Mama" Freeman
Beloved community activist in the historic Garden Homes neighborhood where she has lived since 1969 and is seen as a mother to that community by the local residents. She retired from Milwaukee County after working for 20 years at the Milwaukee County House of Correction.
Serves as a pioneer paving the way as the first to serve as the Community Relations Director at Direct Supply in Milwaukee. She serves on the board of the Havenwoods Economic Development Corporation, and is the current Secretary of the Board of Directors for Community Advocates.
Held several leadership positions with the City of Milwaukee, most recently as Commissioner of Neighborhood Services. He is currently the first African American to serve as the Wisconsin Secretary of Natural Resources, and was a previous Chair of the State Natural Resource Board and the first African American elected to that position.
Colas' 30-year career in media and public relations began with the Milwaukee Courier and continues today as she hosts the weekly radio talk show "There's Always Something Good to Talk About." In 2019, she joined the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office as director of public relations and community engagement.
Owner of numerous McDonald’s franchises and one of the largest African American employers in Wisconsin. He began Magnolia Realty in an effort to help his employees find nearby affordable housing, and serves as a minister at Abundant Faith Church of Integrity.
Dr. Debbie Allen
PhD in Business Administration, and owned and operated several local McDonald's restaurants, established DNA Network—a local consulting firm for female entrepreneurs, has appeared on the "Project Pitch It" television show and more.