I knew of Father James Groppi, an icon of the Civil Rights movement, long before I moved to Milwaukee more than 30 years ago. But it was only last spring, while doing research for this article, that I learned about the heroic young people of the NAACP Youth Council and Commandos and how they marched against injustice in Milwaukee for 200 consecutive nights in 1967 and ’68.
Although I loved working on every story I wrote in 2017 and believe that each is important, the opportunity to look in depth at the open housing marches 50 years later was special in many ways. I had heard parts of this important story over the time I have lived here but writing this article allowed me to see the whole story and appreciate its significance. Hearing from people who were there as participants and observers, as well as academics who shared their scholarly insights, was priceless.
This example of young African-Americans in Milwaukee, who faced virulent hatred, unspeakable disrespect and violence but were not deterred from fighting for their rights, is one we should remember and take inspiration from now, when injustice continues to oppress so many.