16th Street Bridge (Viaduct)

The 16th Street Bridge, also known as the 16th Street Viaduct, links Milwaukee’s North Side to the South Side. This bridge was considered the “Mason-Dixon Line” of Milwaukee, separating the city’s white and black communities. During the 1960s, blacks resided on the city’s North Side while the city’s South Side was overwhelmingly occupied by whites. On Monday, August 28, 1967, close to 200 NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Youth Council members and supporters marched across the bridge to the South Side’s Kosciuszko Park. Upon reaching the South Side, marchers were greeted by a hostile crowd of thousands of white counterprotesters. The violent crowd hurled eggs, rocks, and bottles at Youth Council members. The following night, the Youth Council marched again to the South Side. This time they were confronted by even more hecklers. Some counterdemonstrators held up signs and posters with derogatory messages on them while others continuously pelted hard objects at the young marchers. In 1988, Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist and the Milwaukee Common Council renamed the 16th Street Bridge the James E. Groppi Unity Bridge.