Catholic and Protestant clergy members played significant roles in the Southern and Northern Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In Milwaukee, several Catholic clergy members were active in the local movement. The first civil rights demonstration that Milwaukee clergy publicly participated in was a picketing demonstration against Alabama Governor George Wallace’s presidential campaign visit to Milwaukee. The demonstration was led by Father Matthew Gottschalk, pastor of St. Francis Church.
During his campaign to desegregate Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), Lloyd Barbee teamed up with was a woman named Marilyn Morheuser. Morheuser was a former Catholic nun. In 1963, she left her order so that she could work full-time on civil rights issues. Rev. B. S. Gregg, pastor of St. Matthew Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, also assisted in the campaign by providing financial assistance and allowing Barbee and Morheuser to use his church as the headquarters of their Milwaukee United School Integration Committee (MUSIC) organization.
Other notable clergy members who participated in civil rights demonstrations include Father Eugene Bleidorn and Father James Groppi of St. Boniface Church, Father Matthew Gottschalk of St. Francis Church, Father Earl Goeden of St. Elizabeth Church, Father Simeon Keough of St. Benedict the Moor Church, Father Patrick Flood, Sister Mary Jeannine, Sister Ann Frances, and Father Carl Diederichs. During Milwaukee’s civil rights movement, the Catholic church became divided between conservative and liberal Catholics. Some members of the church, such as Archbishop William E. Cousins, supported civil rights action, while others held the belief that clergy should not publicly endorse or participate in social action. This divide was evident during the 1964 MPS boycott. Several Catholic priests had planned to participate in the boycott by allowing their parish rectories to be used as sites of Freedom Schools. Several Archdiocese officials, however, forbade the participation of clergy and the use of Catholic rectories or schools for the use of civil rights activity. EM