MILWAUKEE — Nicknamed the Black mayor and first lady of Milwaukee, Reuben and Mildred Harpole worked to improve lives in Harambee and throughout the city.
On Tuesday, a building was named after them in Harambee, the neighborhood they served for decades.
At a ceremony to reveal the name, Reuben Harpole said he’d like the new Harpole Building to serve as a reminder to help make a greater Milwaukee.
“[I hope] that people understand they can achieve anything that they’d like to accomplish, if they just put their minds to it,” said Harpole.
Reuben and Mildred did just that, starting in the 1950s.
Together, they championed Milwaukee’s youth and racial housing equal rights.
Mildred, who passed away two years ago this month, worked in schools and advocated for African American students.
Reuben was a leader in community development, working with the UW-Milwaukee Extension and later the Helen Bader Foundation, today known as Bader Philanthropies.
“I think what I learned from Reuben and Mildred more than anything else - listen to what people have to say,” said Dan Bader, CEO and President of Bader Philanthropies.
That was his aim with the Harpole Building.
"We had the opportunity to listen to the community and ask what the community wanted. And they mentioned they wanted a place to gather and they also wanted to focus on their health,” said Bader.
The building, named after Harambee’s humble servants, is now home to Sam’s Place Jazz Café, a gathering place. You’ll also find a holistic medical center, Shalem Healing, inside.
It’s a building that embodies the Swahili meaning of the neighborhood’s name.
“It means let's pull together,” said Harpole. “Harambee. Pull together."