Featured Essay

March on Milwaukee

By Margaret Rozga

Early in the evening of Monday, August 28, 1967, over one hundred members of the Milwaukee Youth Council of the NAACP gathered at their headquarters at 1316 North 15th Street, picked up signs hand-lettered with slogans like “We Need Fair Housing,” and, led by Father James E. Groppi, a white Roman Catholic priest who served as their adviser, headed toward the 16th Street viaduct. At about 6:30 p.m. they were greeted at the north end of the viaduct by almost another one hundred supporters and crossed over the viaduct to the nearly all-white south side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There the marchers met resistance.

On the southeast corner of South 16th Street and West National Avenue, young white men sat on the hoods of cars at Crazy Jim’s Motors, holding other signs including one that read “Groppi—the Black god.” In fact, as many as 8,000 people, according to Milwaukee Police estimates, lined the route on South 16th Street and then along West Lincoln Avenue east to Kosciusko Park. These counter-demonstrators jeered, taunted, and cursed the young open housing marchers. What caused this confrontation? And what were the results?

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