In the late summer of 1967, the civil rights movement was coming to a head. While it manifested around numerous issues throughout the country, in Milwaukee the fight for fair housing would be the catalyst for marches and protest that would last for months. Led by an unlikely advisor, Father James E. Groppi, son of Italian immigrants, and the NAACP Youth Council, thousands turned out for months of consecutive marches. In early 1967, the State of Wisconsin passed its first open housing law to prohibit discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing. While the law was considered a step in the right direction, loopholes involving owner-occupied multifamily properties meant most of Milwaukee’s housing was not included in the law. African Americans, living almost exclusively on the North Side of the city, were not able to move or buy property anywhere else in town. The division of the city was embodied in the 16th Street Viaduct, locally known as “Milwaukee’s Mason-Dixon line.” The bridge still stretches from the predominantly African American neighborhoods of the North Side to the predominantly white, mostly Polish, South Side. When Father Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council gathered to protest the city’s refusal to pass its own, stricter, fair housing ordinance, 16th Street would become a symbol of their struggle. The first march across the viaduct took place on August 28, 1967. About 200 demonstrators walked from the North Side to Kosciuszko Park on the South Side. There they met an overwhelming 5,000 hostile counter-protestors. The next night, marching again, 13,000 counter-protesters hurled rocks, bottles, and fireworks at the civil rights marchers. Acting to protect the marchers were the Youth Council Commandos, young men who would create human walls to shield the women and children participating from the angry South Siders and the increasingly brutal police force. Undeterred, the marches would continue for 200 consecutive nights, through Milwaukee’s frigid winter. Just weeks after the end of the marches, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Notably, before taking up the fight in Milwaukee, Father Groppi had marched alongside King in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. In the days following King’s death, tens of thousands filled the streets of Milwaukee to mourn. By April 11, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act. Milwaukee would go on to pass even more stringent regulations later that year. Fifty years on, the city of Milwaukee is still reflecting on the events of that fateful era. The 16th Street viaduct has been renamed after Father Groppi, but the city is still considered one of the most segregated in the country. The lines dividing African Americans from whites have shifted, but are still staggeringly apparent. While the larger conversation about housing today is focused on affordability and sustainability, it is worth remembering that the simple act of wanting to live where you want is a battle that has been going on for decades.
Posts tagged with "Civil Rights":
In partnership with The National Trust For Historic Preservation, the U.S. Army announced its support today to restore and reuse one of the last surviving World War II–era officers' clubs for African Americans in the country. With the Army's go-ahead, project stakeholders will adapt the Mountain View Officers’ Club in Arizona into an events space that honors the contributions of black soldiers and the struggle for civil rights. The Mountain View Officers’ Club is one of only two surviving officers' clubs from the WWII era. Located inside Fort Huachuca, the country's largest training ground for black soldiers during WWII, the club was a social nexus, giving hundreds of officers in a segregated military a place to unwind with drinks and dancing, as well as cultural programming, like exhibition fights with boxer Joe Louis and performances by Lena Horne. The base, which sits about 15 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, hosted over 25,000 soldiers at its peak. Real estate developer and frequent military contractor Del Webb built the wood-frame, two-story structure from the Army's design codes, and the club is a prime example of World War II Mobilization architecture. The National Register–eligible property recently found itself on a different, more precarious list: Vacant since 1998, the structure was added to National Trust's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list back in 2013. To give the building new life, the National Trust is partnering with a host of stakeholders, public and private, to preserve the building and adapt it as a flexible events space. The Army has "conditionally" accepted a proposal to transform the building into a community site, one that would offer upscale dining and meeting options to military and civilians alike. A 4,400-square-foot deck at the rear of the building would be used for screenings and outdoor dinners, and low-slung outbuildings would add additional restrooms and storage. “We are delighted to have the interest and support of Fort Huachuca in exploring the untapped potential of the Mountain View Officers’ Club,” said Christina Morris, field director for the National Trust, in a statement. “Reactivating the Mountain View Officers’ Club is a creative solution that answers the local need for a new social, event and recreational center, while keeping alive this chapter of Civil Rights history for future generations of soldiers and civilians.” For inspiration, the team looked to a similar reuse project in Riverside, California. A former officers' club of the same vintage is the centerpiece of Homefront at Camp Anza, an affordable housing development for veterans and their families. The club now serves as a gathering space for residents and those in the surrounding neighborhood. The National Trust and the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Huachuca partnered with local and state groups to bring a site proposal to fruition this summer. The group includes Southwest Association of Buffalo Soldiers, a preservation organization dedicated to saving the Mountain View club; Tuscon, Arizona–based architects Poster Frost Mirto; Kadence Restaurant Group, a Tucson hospitality company; as well as state preservation and arts groups. With the Army's blessing, the stakeholders can now court developers and investors for the project. To pay for the work, one of those organizations, Arizona State Parks and Trails, turned to the National Park Service’s African-American Civil Rights Fund, a program to document, preserve, and interpret the 20th century's civil rights movement. If the application is approved, the half-million-dollar capital grant would pay for the restoration of select elements of the dance hall and fund an exterior restoration that would bring the building back to the way it looked when it was erected in 1942.
The National Parks Service (NPS) and United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the designation of 24 new National Historic Landmarks this week, ushering the department’s final set of designations under the secretary’s tenure. In a press release announcing the selections, Secretary Jewell focused on the cultural and historical diversity of the sites, stating, “These 24 new designations depict different threads of the American story that have been told through activism, architecture, music, and religious observance. Their designation ensures future generations have the ability to learn from the past as we preserve and protect the historic value of these properties and the more than 2,500 other landmarks nationwide.” The new monuments are drawn from a diversity of sites and range from antique works of infrastructure to noted architectural projects. Among the latter set of new monuments is The Neutra Studio and Residence (VDL Research House) in Los Angeles, where the architect Richard Neutra lived and practiced. The structure is a seminal work of International Style and midcentury modern architectural styles and was used by Neutra as a home office during the course of much of his career. The house was gifted to Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design in 1990 by Richard Neutra's wife Dione and now plays host to cultural programming. Another of Neutra’s works—the Painted Desert Community Complex, headquarters for the Petrified Forest National Park in Apache County, Arizona—was also included in this year’s list. The project, designed by Neutra and Robert E. Alexander in the International Style, features broad, low-slung building masses punctuated by alternating expanses of curtain wall windows and masonry construction. The structure is designed around an interior, gallery-access courtyard and is attached to a Neutra-designed filling station. This year’s list also includes many sites of importance to civil rights movements and to indigenous cultures from across the country. In the west, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Chapel (McDonnell Hall) in San Jose, California played a vital role in the Mexican American civil rights movement as a place of worship for ethnic Mexican migrant farmworkers in the surrounding community. The building was used as the home for the Community Service Organization (CSO), a group whose work supported the ascendance of Chicano civil rights leader and organizer César Chávez during the 1950s and 1960s. According to the press release, “The work carried out at the chapel ultimately helped shape modern American Latino identity.” The NPS list also includes the settlement in the Walrus Islands Archeological District near Togiak, Alaska, one of the few remaining sites related to human occupation of the Bering Sea continental shelf. The settlement dates to an era of much lower sea levels when then Bering Sea existing as a land bridge between Asia and North America, roughly 6,000 years ago. According to the release, Round Island, one of seven islands in the archeological district, was populated by seafaring peoples who settled the area and practiced subsistence farming and hunting sites. A site known as 48GO305, or the “Hell Gap Paleoindian Site,” in Goshen County, Wyoming was also highlighted. The location is the site of “repeated occupations by nine Paleoindian cultural complexes in well-stratified deposits,” and also represents the only site that contains remains from “all of the cultural complexes known on the Plains spanning from between 13,000 and 8,500 years ago.” For a full list of sites, see the Department of the Interior website.
U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro visited Chicago today to announce a clarification to the 1968 Fair Housing Act that officials say will improve access to affordable housing in cities across the country. HUD finalized a bureaucratic rule that Castro says will correct shortcomings in the federal agency's provision of fair housing. The 1968 law, part of the Civil Rights bill, obligates HUD and its local affiliates to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a lofty goal that “has not been as effective as originally envisioned,” according to the new HUD rule. "This represents a new partnership with cities,” said Secretary Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Standing in front of Chicago's newly expanded Park Boulevard—the mixed-income housing development was formerly Stateway Gardens, part of the corridor of South Side housing projects that included Robert Taylor Homes—Castro said the new rule will make publicly available data and mapping tools to help community members and local leaders establish local goals for the development fair housing. He added that Chicago had already used the newly available data for a preliminary exercise linking affordable housing and transit planning. The change also allows local housing agencies more time and flexibility in presenting their fair housing priorities and goals to the federal government. Castro referenced a recent Harvard study that found kids from low-income neighborhoods were statistically less likely than their wealthier counterparts to achieve upward mobility. "A zip code should never prevent anyone from reaching their greater aspirations,” said Castro.
Chicago's historic Pullman neighborhood will become a national monument, perhaps putting it into the National Park Service's portfolio—the first Chicago property to receive such a designation. President Barack Obama is expected to name the Far South Side area a national monument during a visit to his adopted hometown next week, invoking his presidential authority under the Antiquities Act for the 14th time. White House officials said it is part of Obama's efforts to diversify the nation's collection of historic places. An analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress found fewer than one-fourth of 461 national parks and monuments had a focus on diverse groups. The home of Pullman Palace Car Co., which made sleeper cars for rail passengers, the Pullman area retains a collection of Queen Anne–style architecture left over from Pullman's worker housing and administration buildings. That collection is considered one of the country's first “company towns.” Once prairie land, Pullman became part of Chicago in 1907. An 1894 strike cemented its place in labor history, when U.S. marshals killed several workers participating in the country's first industrywide walkout. That strike led to the creation of the nation's first African American union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Illinois lawmakers said in a letter to the President that Pullman “helped build the black middle class and laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century." The boundaries of the district will be 103rd Street on the north, 115th Street on the south, Cottage Grove Avenue on the west and the Norfolk & Western rail line on the east.
Travis Somerville: A Great Cloud of Witnesses Catherine Clark Gallery 150 Minna Street, San Francisco Through April 13 In his solo exhibition at Catherine Clark Gallery, Travis Somerville presents a mixed-media exhibition, layering past and present. He continues his work investigating historical memory and questioning how particular fragmented stories are simplified into collective truths. Specifically, Somerville uses imagery from the Civil Rights movement to explore the status of human rights in our contemporary society. By presenting current stories of immigration, Uzbekistan’s child labor, and the uprisings of the Arab Spring against collages, images, and objects from the Civil Rights movement, Somerville explores our “post racial” culture. One installation presents a line of reproduced racially designated water fountains mounted to a gallery wall.
A new affordable housing project designed by Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) is in the works for Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) seniors in the City of Brotherly Love—it will be the second of its kind in the nation. Hidden Philadelphia reported that construction on this 56-unit complex, called the John C. Anderson Apartments, has already commenced and will be located on 13th Street right in the heart of the Washington Square West neighborhood, a part of Philadelphia that has long been home to a gay and lesbian community. The development is named after city councilman John C. Anderson who was "instrumental in the passage of Philadelphia’s civil rights bill for sexual minority people." Developer Pennrose Properties, along with Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund and Gay News publisher Mark Segal, have spearheaded this $19.5 million development. The project will provide housing for low-income seniors 62 years or older. The six-story building will consist of one-bedroom units, 1,800-square-feet of commercial space, a green courtyard, and a partial green roof.