Black Milwaukee’s Long Freedom Struggle

Curated by: Derek Handley

Redlining MapThe fight for Black Lives has been an ongoing struggle in Milwaukee since Wisconsin entered the Union as a free state in 1848, and it “barred black people from voting” (Scott 2018). This exhibit depicts the struggle for Black Freedom and the hostile geographies toward Black people from the 1938 Milwaukee redline map, through the 60’s Civil Rights Movement, up until present day Black Lives Matter movement. Milwaukee’s contemporary racial geography is the result of an array of federal, state, and local policies and private practices that explicitly classified and separated population groups by race. The exhibit argues that the civil rights movement has not ended, and disrupts “the geographical, chronological, and ideological neatness” narrative of the “conventional 1954/55-65 timeframe” of the Civil Rights Movement (Cha-Jua and Lang, 267). The exhibit is a visual depiction of the Long Movement thesis which expands the traditional understanding of the civil rights period. The Long Movement Thesis argues that the modern Civil Rights (and Black Power) movement was a series of local struggles rather than a national social movement and the differences between southern de jure and northern de facto racial oppression were exaggerated, and racism is nationwide (265). Milwaukee’s long civil rights history and its entrenched racial inequalities and deep segregation make it a rich ground for understanding America’s historical hostile geographies of racial covenants, redlining, housing access and unfair treatment by law enforcement. 






1. Cha-Jua, Sundiata Keita, and Clarence Lang. “The “Long Movement” as Vampire: Temporal and Spatial Fallacies in Recent Black Freedom Studies.” The Journal of African American History 92, no. 2 (2007): 265-88. Accessed August 10, 2021. 

2. Gordon, Scott. 2018. “Wisconsin’s Halting Path Toward Black Suffrage.” Accessed 08-10-2021.