Kosciuszko Park

Kosciuszko Park is a public park located on Milwaukee’s South Side. During the late nineteenth century, the park was named Lincoln Avenue Park, and in 1900 it was renamed after Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish military leader in the U. S. War of Independence. Kosciuszko joined George Washington’s army and eventually moved up in rank and became a brigadier general. In 1967, the park became an important geographic site for local civil rights struggles. In that year the Milwaukee NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Youth Council began a series of open housing marches and selected the park as the end point for many of the marches. The march route from the North Side to the South Side was symbolic because the South Side did not welcome minorities as neighbors or visitors.

On Monday, August 28, 1967, close to 200 Youth Council members and supporters marched to the South Side’s Kosciuszko Park. Upon reaching the South Side, marchers were greeted by a hostile crowd of thousands. The violent mob hurled eggs, rocks, and bottles at Youth Council members. The heckling was so bad that the Youth Council was not able to have its rally in the park as they had planned. The following night, the Youth Council again marched to the South Side determined to have its rally. This time they were confronted by even more hecklers. These counterdemonstrators held up signs and posters with derogatory messages on them, while others continuously pelted hard objects, as well as urine and feces, onto Youth Council members. Once across the 16th Street bridge, the large crowd of counterdemonstrators followed the Youth Council to Kosciuszko Park where the rally was to be held. The rally was very brief and for the most part, consisted of Father James Groppi commending the marchers for their bravery and dedication. During the rally, a firecracker was thrown into the rally area and injured three marchers. At that point, the rally ended and the marchers headed back across the bridge to the North Side. EM