Eli Frank, “Mapping Radical Milwaukee”
Mentor: Rachel Buff, History
For nearly half a century, Milwaukee was governed by a trifecta of socialist mayors and was home to one of the most robust and accomplished socialist movements in the country. The history of municipal socialism in Milwaukee has received considerable scholarly attention, and the historical legacy of this socialist movement is ever-present in the Milwaukee landscape and built environment; one need only look to the public parks system, for example, to see the impact municipal socialism had on shaping the terrain we interact with every day. Less known, however, is that twentieth-century Milwaukee was also home to other radical movements and tendencies, like communism and anarchism. This project, then, in identifying and mapping a handful of sites representative of the social, political, and cultural worlds of Milwaukee’s various radicalisms and placing those sites in their historical contexts, seeks to answer how these other radicalisms laid claim to public space and how, in thinking of the built environment as historical witness, we can read the urban landscape for traces of this disappeared past. We will end by advancing a number of conclusions that can be drawn from this research, including proposing a link between the suppression and marginalization of radical movements during the Red Scare(s) and processes of erasure in the built environment. Ultimately, by mapping the history of Milwaukee’s marginalized radicalisms, we hope to raise to the surface the ways in which these submerged and subjugated histories laid claim to public space and worked to transform the social fabric of the city. In recovering and reconstructing the social, political, and cultural worlds of Milwaukee radicalisms, this project aims to uncover alternative narratives about Milwaukee’s past to allow us, however fleetingly, to reinhabit those disappeared worlds in the hopes of imagining alternative futures.
Click the thumbnail below to open the entire presentation in a new tab.