Against the Wind: African Americans and the Schools in Milwaukee, 1963-2002

By Bill Dahlk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
EARLY STIRRINGS, 1958–1963

I don’t think we have any real militancy here, but it’s developing.
I’m sure that if we don’t have some corrections it will occur
.

—Corneff Taylor, chairman of the Milwaukee Commission
on Community Relations, 19621

“Docile” was the word the Milwaukee Journal used to describe the local African American leadership during the several years prior to 1963.2 But when attorney Lloyd Barbee began the public phase of his school desegregation crusade in the summer of that year, the ground had already been broken and seeds in the drive for African American rights had already been planted. Significant activism had not yet emerged and inertia seemed to prevail. Yet Barbee did not start with virgin soil. Stirrings in the years before 1963 made the Journal’s characterization inexact. Barbee’s school initiative drew sustenance from the fruits of earlier developments and many of the leaders involved in these activities eventually came to the forefront of the school desegregation movement.3


POLICE, HOUSING, AND EMPLOYMENT

In February 1958, Daniel Bell, a young black male, was fatally shot by Milwaukee police under suspicious circumstances. Some blacks charged foul play and a small but angry protest developed, led by Rev. Raymond Lee Lathan, State Assemblyman Isaac Coggs (D-Milwaukee), and local labor organizer Calvin Sherard. The Milwaukee

1 MS December 10, 1962.

2 MJ July 22, 1963; Henry J. Schmandt, et al, Milwaukee: A Contemporary Urban Profile (New York: Praeger, 1971), 150.

3 The best account of the protest stirrings from 1958 to 1963 is in Patrick D. Jones, The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009), chapter 2.

-3-

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