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

By Bill Dahlk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
THE UNITED COMMUNITY ACTION GROUP CHALLENGES MPS

If they don’t spend the money the way we want it, we don’t want it, and we will be willing to pull our children out of school.

—Flora Seefeldt, UCAG leader1

The primary goal of the Barbee-MUSIC campaign was integrated schools, but many African Americans in Milwaukee favored a dual agenda for educational equity. Their long-term goal may have been integrated schooling but, given the white electorate’s and school board’s opposition to this ambition, a more realistic, short-term aim was quality education in black schools. In the eyes of many blacks, this latter goal would be realized only with greater community control over neighborhood schools.2 This goal reflected the rising black power vision nationally, evidenced in aspects of the Groppi-Commando phenomenon. The dual agenda was also embraced by the United Community Action Group (UCAG), a grassroots educational reform organization.

In the fall of 1967, the Wisconsin state legislature, prompted by the summer’s civil disturbance in Milwaukee (most called it a riot), voted

1 MJ January 21, 1968.

2 By 1970, both UWM professor Harold Rose and alderperson Vel Phillips saw this shift to community control occur among Milwaukee African Americans. MS March 6, 1970. In 1969, an organization of black parents called Participation in Education (PIE) called for community school boards in Milwaukee at Auer Avenue and Clarke Street elementary schools. PIE claimed to have the signatures of 1,200 calling for neighborhood boards. MC June 21, 28, 1969; Mstar June 23, 1969. Chapter 9 will deal more with the issue of community control of schools in Milwaukee.

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