LifestyleBlack History Month


Project Discovery: The history of the fight for fair housing in Wisconsin

Posted at 6:37 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 07:37:32-04

This story is through a partnership with TMJ4 News, the Wisconsin Black Historical Society/Museum, and the Milwaukee High School of the Arts.

Milwaukee’s best-known contribution to the Civil Rights Movement was the 200 nights of marching in 1967 and 1968 in the name of Fair Housing, led by Father James Groppi, Alderwoman Vel Phillips, and the NAACP Youth Council.

These Milwaukeeans and those who joined them bravely protested against segregation and discrimination in the blistering summer heat and the bitter winter cold, crossing the 16th Avenue bridge each night where they were met by violent mobs on the city’s south side.

But did you know that six years before the March on Milwaukee, state legislator Lloyd Barbee led a 13-day Fair Housing sit-in at the capitol rotunda in Madison?

Milwaukee Alderwoman Vel Phillips attended the Madison Fair Housing protest. The next year, she introduced an anti-discrimination housing ordinance to the Milwaukee Common Council.

While it was voted down 18 to 1, with Phillips being the only vote in favor, she and other civil rights leaders would continue the fight for fair housing, which culminated in the March on Milwaukee.

Lloyd Barbee was originally from Memphis, Tennessee. He came to Madison to attend law school, then moved to Milwaukee in 1962 switching his focus to another important aspect of the civil rights movement: desegregating schools.

Lloyd Barbee would go on to advocate for progressive causes including gay rights, women’s rights, and criminal justice reform. His namesake lives on at a northside MPS Montessori school.

Watch the full story below:

Project Discovery: The history of the fight for fair housing in Wisconsin

Watch TMJ4 News' Susan Kim discuss the story with student journalists Aj'Liyah Granger and Nahovy Morales:

Project Discovery: Susan Kim talks with student journalists

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip