National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council

Members of Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council with James Groppi. Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society
Members of Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council with James Groppi. Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society. Image ID: 94026

During the 1960s, the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council, along with its charismatic adviser, Father James E. Groppi, came to the forefront of Milwaukee’s civil rights movement. Its first direct action campaign, against employment discrimination at a local restaurant, began in 1963. The Youth Council also protested the exclusively white Fraternal Order of Eagles Club in 1966. That same year, the Youth Council established its Freedom House headquarters and its security unit known as the Commandos. The following year, the Youth Council joined forces with Alderwoman Vel Phillips to rally for a strong open housing law in the city of Milwaukee. The campaign would prove to be the Youth Council’s most prominent campaign and would thrust the group into the national spotlight. The Youth Council marched 200 consecutive nights for an open housing law.

The Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council was founded in 1947 by Ardie Clark Halyard. Throughout the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the Youth Council was rather conservative in nature. The turning point came in 1963 when a young black teen came to the Youth Council lamenting a local restaurant‘s discriminatory hiring policy toward people of color. For the most part, the Youth Council consisted of poor and working-class black youth, but there were also a number of white members. Between the years of 1966 and 1968, the Youth Council gained national attention for its confrontational direct action campaigns. The group received many awards for its work and steadfast dedication to seeking equality for African Americans in Milwaukee. The Youth Council was presented with the Youth Council of the Year Award at the annual convention of the national NAACP in 1967 and again in 1968. Father Groppi was also named Advisor of the Year both years as well. EM.