LifestyleBlack History Month


Learn how the Watson family paved the way for the city’s Black middle class at the MPM

"They formed Milwaukee's first Black middle class"
Posted at 6:44 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-05 08:42:26-05

MILWAUKEE — To fully understand the history of Milwaukee, you need to understand the vital role the Watson family played.

The Watsons are a Black family who left the oppressive South and established not only a life for themselves, but for other Black families.

Sully Watson was born into slavery and left the oppressive conditions of Virginia and found his forever home in Milwaukee where he worked as a stone cutter. His wife, Susana Watson, worked as a seamstress, but the couple did more than just that.

Milwaukee Public Museum's Education Programs Coordinator, Richard Hedderman, said when the Watson's moved to Milwaukee there were fewer than 100 Black residents. The Watsons prospered and established one of the first Baptist Churches.

"(They) played an important role in forming and strengthening Milwaukee's early Black community," Hedderman said. "They became very integral to forming Milwaukee's first Black Middle Class."

The Watson's great-grandchild, Mabel Raimey, also flourished in Milwaukee, becoming the first Black female attorney in Wisconsin.

To learn more about the Watson family, click here.

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