MacDowell School Construction, Protest

In December 1965, the Milwaukee United School Integration Committee (MUSIC) began daily demonstrations at the MacDowell Elementary school site located on West Highland Boulevard. MacDowell Elementary School replaced the old and dilapidated Eighteenth Street School and was built to alleviate the overcrowding at four other local elementary schools. Due to the de facto segregation that existed in the city, MUSIC members objected to building a school at the site because it would serve as another segregated school. Demonstrators utilized a variety of protest tactics to halt construction of the school. Several vigils were held at the site, and many demonstrators chained themselves to gates or construction equipment in order to prevent workmen from building the school. Father James Groppi, who eventually became second vice-chairman of MUSIC, was very active in the MacDowell school protests. He would often drive protestors to the site and transport food to demonstrators who had chained themselves to the school grounds. Despite agitation from demonstrators, the school board continued with the building of the school, which opened in January 1967. After the school’s opening, MUSIC members disseminated flyers describing the school as “a symbol of planned, unsafe, overcrowded, undemocratic, segregated education.” EM