Milwaukee Open Housing Marches

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of an extraordinary event in Milwaukee history. A group of African-American teenagers belonging to the NAACP Youth Council, under the guidance of their advisor, the Rev. James Groppi, marched for 200 nights, often facing hostile white crowds, in support of open housing legislation in the city. To commemorate the anniversary, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service has created a series of articles, videos and photographs examining various aspects of the March on Milwaukee.

Explore the series

Download a free copy of "The Long March to Freedom" ebook, a compilation of all the articles in this series.

Milwaukee Open Housing Marches: 50th Anniversary

Open housing marches placed spotlight on racial discrimination, segregation
JUNE 12, 2017

For 200 consecutive days from August 1967 to March 1968, local civil rights activists protested racial discrimination in housing in marches across the city. The March on Milwaukee contributed to the national fight for civil rights for African-Americans and to passage of the federal Fair Housing Act in 1968.

High school sweethearts recall open housing struggle
JUNE 15, 2017

Ken and Joyce McGhee were brought together by the Milwaukee Open Housing marches, during which they experienced tear gas and violence by angry white mobs.

Counter-protestors driven by fear, hatred, white residents recall
JUNE 19, 2017

Several white Milwaukee residents remember how fear and unrest shrouded Milwaukee during the time of the Open Housing marches..

Former St. Boniface student says Father Groppi ‘taught me how to love’
JUNE 22, 2017

Shirley (Berry) Butler-Derge, a member of Milwaukee’s NAACP Youth Council in the 1960s, remembers the Rev. James E. Groppi as an inspirational teacher who broke down racial barriers.

Fifty years after open housing marches, residential segregation still norm in Milwaukee
JUNE 26, 2017

African-Americans living in segregated neighborhoods lack access to jobs and are more likely to live in poverty.

Rozga shares legacy of open housing marches through play, poems
JUNE 29, 2017

Margaret Rozga, who participated in the open housing marches in Milwaukee, tells the story of Milwaukee’s civil rights movement through her art.

Housing discrimination personal issue for Open Housing marcher’s family
JULY 3, 2017

Open housing was a personal issue for Lyneria McGhee and her family, who struggled to find a place large enough for eight people to live and encountered white landlords who refused to rent to them.

Anger motivated marcher to participate in open housing demonstrations
JULY 6, 2017

Prentice McKinney, who grew up on the streets of Chicago and Milwaukee, was drawn to the NAACP Youth Council in the 1960s because of his anger about housing discrimination.

‘We fought just as hard’: Women in the March on Milwaukee
JULY 10, 2017

The Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council provided leadership opportunities for young African-American women that were absent in other aspects of their lives.

Open housing marches a family affair for former Youth Council member
JULY 13, 2017

Claudette Harris, a former NAACP Youth Council member, participated in the 1960s open housing marches with family and friends seeking social justice.

Open housing marcher says ‘state of the city has gotten worse’

Earl Bracy, a psychologist who participated in the open housing marches as a young man, says today’s young people are not as invested in social change as his generation.

Marcher sees link between open housing marches, Sherman Park unrest

Barbara David Salas, a marcher in the open housing protests in 1967-1968, reflects on racial injustice in Milwaukee a half-century later. She is shown here with her mother, Mildred David (left).

Fight for equality must be rooted in community, sustainability, leaders say

A new generation of black leaders, who are carrying on the work that started during the Civil Rights Movement, say the focus must change to achieve true equality.

Council is more diverse than in 1967, but city faces similar problems

Diversity on the Milwaukee Common Council has improved since Vel Phillips was the only woman and non-white representative in 1967. But Council President Ashanti Hamilton is only its fourth non-white president. No woman has held that position.

Open housing marcher passes legacy of activism to daughter Chantia Lewis

Deborah Tatum, who marched for open housing in Milwaukee in the late 1960s, passed her passion for social justice on to her daughter, Chantia Lewis, alderwoman of District 9.

About the project

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reporters Andrea Waxman, Edgar Mendez, Naomi Waxman and Jabril Faraj, and web/social media directors Dwayne Burtin and Adam Carr, contributed to this series. In addition, journalism students at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication participated in the project in the spring 2017 semester. Videos and text stories were produced by LaToya Dennis’s digital journalism class; text stories and graphics were provided by students in Herbert Lowe’s journalism capstone class.

For the maps, census data was drawn from National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS), Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) and the U.S. Census Bureau. The American Communities Project at Brown University created the variables and harmonized the data.

Milwaukee NNS

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS) is an award-winning online source for objective, professional multimedia reporting on urban issues in 18 Milwaukee communities.

NNS covers stories that are important to the people who live, work and serve in city neighborhoods, on topics such as education, public safety, economic development, health and wellness, environment, recreation, employment, youth development and housing.

In 2017, NNS won a regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence from RTDNA (Radio Television Digital News Association). NNS also won a regional Murrow award in 2012, as well as journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2015, NNS won the gold award for “Best Local News or Feature Website.”

A project of the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University, NNS traces its origins to the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative and United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee (UNCOM).

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