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February is Black History Month: Madison's African-American history timeline
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February is Black History Month: Madison's African-American history timeline

Creating a brighter future for all of Madison's citizens requires a keen understanding of the past. In that interest, here are some major events involving the city's African-American community since the first half of the 19th century.

These events have been gathered from written and oral histories as well as interviews and newspaper accounts.

But this is only a beginning. We want to add more events and photos to the timeline to complete the picture. If you have input, please contact us via email.


An unidentified female servant to James Morrison, owner of the American House Hotel, becomes the first black resident of Madison. No identification is available for the servant, who apparently stayed in Madison until 1845. Morrison arrived in Wisconsin Territory's Iowa County in 1827 with his family and slaves. He relocated to the newly created village of Madison to work as clerk and manager of A.A. Bird's general store. In 1838, Morrison, Bird and James Doty built the American House Hotel, where territorial legislature delegates stayed. A year later, he moves his family from Iowa County to Madison, bringing the unidentified female servant along.[1]


The few black residents of Madison continue to be listed in census records but are not identified.[1]


The census first lists a black Madison resident by name: Darky Butch. He lives alone with no apparent connections to a white family. He is one of six black residents in a Madison population of 632.[1]


As Wisconsin becomes a state, black families arrive in Madison. "Their purpose for coming to Madison as free individuals appeared to be the pursuit of economic opportunity and a new life."[1]


J. Anderson, a black barber from Ohio, opens his own barber shop in Madison. He arrived in Madison in 1848 and purchased a lot on the corner of Oilman and Henry streets and one at the corner of Hamilton and Dayton streets for a combined $400 (more than $12,000 in today's money). Anderson and his wife Elizabeth later moved to Janesville to open another barber shop. His real estate holdings were valued at $80,000 in 1860 (more than $2.2 million today), and his personal property had a value of $10,000 (more than $275,000 today).[1]



William H. Noland.

William H. Noland becomes the first black person to be nominated for a state post, but he never takes office. Noland, a successful businessman and entrepreneur who moved from New York, and his family became the first permanent black residents of Madison in 1850. He clerked for prominent Madison attorney William B. Jarvis in addition to roles as a cloth dyer, barber, cleaner, musician, chiropodist (a foot specialist) and veterinarian. In correspondence, he often was referred to as "The Professor." In 1857, Jarvis nominates Noland for the state position of notary public and offers to put up the cash bond required. Gov. Coles Bashford accepts the nomination but Secretary of State David W. Jones refuses to accept the bond with this notation: "This man is a n*****, and the secretary refuses to file his bond." Jones is never appointed to the position.[1,2,3]


Responding to President Abraham Lincoln's call for Wisconsin to provide one regiment for the Civil War, William H. Noland of Madison on April 1 writes to Gov. Alexander Randall to offer a company of black men for the effort. U.S. and state policy does not allow for black soldiers, and no record exists of Randall replying to Noland's offer.[3]


With the Civil War ongoing, white residents express concerns about the possibility of blacks migrating to their areas, and laws are proposed to exclude blacks from becoming residents. A committee recommends against measures to exclude blacks, but such legislation is introduced by Oscar F. Jones of Dodge County. It is tabled by the Assembly, while the Senate pushes it into a committee. No other efforts to restrict black immigration are made.[4]


Madison gets its first black candidate for mayor, but it's not by his own choosing. The Wisconsin Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Gillespie v. Palmer delivered on March 30 says blacks have had the right to vote since 1849. Four days later, William H. Noland appears on the ballot for Madison's mayor against incumbent Elisha E. Keyes, a Republican. The chosen Democratic candidate declined to run, and the party wants Noland to run as an independent. Noland is insulted, saying the Democrats had been responsible for attitudes promoting white superiority, but his name nonetheless ends up on the ballot. Noland loses 692-306 and says he voted for Keyes.[5,6]


Madison's black population according to the decennial Census is 69 (0.4 percent of the total population), fueled by immigrants from smaller towns in Wisconsin and migration from the South.[7]


The Free African Methodist Church is founded by John Turner, a former Kentucky slave, and for years serves as the center of Madison's black community. The church buys the old Bethel Lutheran Church building and moves it to the corner of East Dayton and Blount streets.[12,20]


A Wisconsin State Journal editorial says reports that Madison dentists refused to treat a black girl are "probably exaggerated." The newspaper continues: "At least it is to be hoped that our local practitioners are not carried away by silly prejudices that have not the slightest reason for existing in a liberal and intelligent community like this. We treat dogs and cattle, and human beings are entitled to at least as much consideration."[21]


Madison's black population according to the decennial Census is 143, more than double the total from 10 years earlier and 0.6 percent of the total population.[9]


Members of the Free African Methodist Church cite racial prejudice as a reason why the Rev. C.H. Thomas is unable to find a place to live in Madison. The church members ask the public for help in moving a house they had purchased to land they had leased.[22]


The Mount Zion Baptist Church is formed as Madison's second black religious organization, originally meeting at the First Baptist Church downtown before moving to its own building at 548 W. Johnson St. in the early 1920s. Historian Erika Janik wrote later: "These and other social organizations provided direction and comfort to the city's blacks, especially important as white anxiety about black settlement remained high."[20,12]


White beachgoers ask that blacks be "roped off to themselves and that they not be provided with bathing suits from the same stock which supplies the white people." The Rev. C.H. Thomas of the Free African Methodist Church responds in a letter to the Wisconsin State Journal: "I tell you how we can fix it. Why not have the white people take one lake and the colored people the other. That would fix it fine and there would be no annoyance on either side. I would suggest that the negroes be assigned to Lake Mendota, because the lake is deeper and naturally the waters are ah — a trifle darker."[23,24]


Madison's first black newspaper, the Wisconsin Weekly Blade, debuts. Founded by Madison black leaders Chestena and J. Anthony Josey, the newspaper runs social notes, church news and other articles of importance to the black community. Anthony Josey uses his newspaper to start a "Black is Beautiful" campaign, writing: "Stand erect — the posture of a man. Unless you have disgraced it, there is no occasion to be ashamed of your race." From 1917 to 1919 the Blade focused on black participation in World War I.[8]


A Madison parade for black soldiers returning from World War I arranged by J. Anthony Josey is mysteriously canceled. According to the Wisconsin Weekly Blade, a Madison resident named "Mr. Phillips" is responsible after he writes to the secretary of war to say Madison did not have accommodations for the soldiers. "Mr. Phillips" also is believed to have suggested to white leaders that a large number of black soldiers in Madison would be dangerous and result in crime. Josey accuses Samuel Banks, a black messenger for Gov. Emmanuel Philipp, of sabotaging the parade. Josey and Banks had previously feuded over Banks' efforts for a Wisconsin booth at the National Half-Century Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation Exposition in Chicago in 1915. Josey says Banks was attempting to become a "dictator over Wisconsin's African-Americans" and is allowing Jim Crow practices to filter into Madison.[8]


Madison's black population in the decennial Census is 259, up 81 percent from 10 years earlier and 0.7 percent of the total population.[9]


J. Anthony Josey is wounded and a black minister from Beloit is killed in a shooting at Josey's home. Marshall O'Bannon, a World War I veteran who roomed with the Joseys, shoots the Rev. J.G. Fox and Josey in what is described as a religious dispute. Josey is seriously wounded and initially is thought to be close to death but recovers. A judge finds O'Bannon to be insane. The Madison media gives almost daily updates on the situation involving the well-known Josey.[10]


The Ku Klux Klan, which in 1921 put an ad in the Wisconsin State Journal seeking members for a "fraternal order," stages its first parade in Madison. The Oct. 4 event draws a mostly silent crowd of onlookers as an estimated 1,300 robed members march through Brittingham Park and through the city. The event ends with the burning of a cross. The Klan's growth in Madison is largely due to its claim to maintain order in the Greenbush neighborhood, which was the scene of a number of murders and assaults during Prohibition. Madison Mayor Milo Kittleson and Police and Fire Commission President E.H. Drews later were found to have secretly deputized 30 Klan members to take part in Greenbush raids. The Klan's presence in Madison didn't last long, however. Its last major event in Madison took place in 1925.[11,12,13]



Carson Gulley in 1956.

Carson Gulley, who would become one of Madison's most famous chefs, starts a 27-year tenure as dormitory chef at UW-Madison. While working as a chef in Tomahawk, Gulley is offered a position at the UW by director of dormitories and commons D.L. Halverson. Two of Gulley's cookbooks, "Seasoning Secrets" and "Favorite Recipes," earned national recognition. On campus, he becomes something of a celebrity. "He was also a friend and confidant to several generations of students, who revered him for his warmth and wisdom," Michael Penn wrote in On Wisconsin magazine. "As an African-American civil-service worker on a largely white campus, he achieved an iconic status usually attained by only the most luminary of professors."[14,15,18]


Madison's black population according to the decennial Census is 348, up 34 percent from 10 years earlier and 0.6 percent of the total population.[9]


It doesn't make the news at the time, but residents in the Nakoma Homes Company show some of the attitudes Madison's black residents faced. Nakoma residents agree to add a covenant that reads: "No part of these premises shall ever be owned or occupied by any person of the Ethiopian race." Future UW-Madison President Conrad Elvehjem is among those who sign the petition approving the covenant. Madison annexes Nakoma later in the year.[11]


The depression continues to hit black workers harder than their white counterparts. In Wisconsin, 46 percent of the black population is unemployed compared to 13 percent of whites. In Madison, the black unemployment rate is 25 percent.[12]


Madison is reported to be the most "congenial" city in the state for blacks, but segregation is the standard in housing. Of 365 black residents in the decennial Census (0.5 percent of the total population), 80 percent live in only three of Madison's 20 wards, mostly on the south side with some on the near east side. The housing is inferior, but blacks pay comparatively higher rents than whites.[25]


A survey of employment policies shows the discriminatory practices that keep black workers out of jobs. The department stores and utilities surveyed hire blacks only as porters and maids, while heavy industrial employers do not hire blacks at all. Only in packing, with the railroad and light utilities can blacks regularly find work. Asked why more blacks were not hired, employers say blacks do not apply for the jobs or that white employees do not want to work with them.[25]


Spurred by Madison soldiers successfully integrating the city's USO facilities, the local NAACP chapter reorganizes. It was first started in the 1920s but did not stay active. The re-energized efforts are focused primarily around supporting national programs instead of dealing with local issues.[12,25]


The black workforce gets a temporary boost because of industrial labor shortages caused by World War II. But some jobs remain off-limits to blacks despite federal regulation and a presidential order banning discrimination.[25]


The South Madison Neighborhood Center opens at 609 Center St. Organized by Willie Lou Harris, Kenneth Newville and George Gerrard, the center's physical structure is a pair of former Army barracks from Truax Field.[39]


Madison's black population in the decennial Census is 648, 0.7 percent of the population.[84]


Carson Gulley and his wife, Beatrice, become Madison's first black TV personalities. WMTV invites the chef and his wife to host a cooking show called "What's Cookin'." It was the only known program in the country to feature a black husband-and-wife team on TV in the 1950s.[16]


The housing issues that black Madison residents face come to light in a controversial move to prevent Carson Gulley and his wife from building a house in the Crestwood neighborhood. They purchase property at 5701 Cedar Place to build a house, but a group of neighborhood residents petitions the subdivision's board of directors to buy back the land. The co-op votes 64-30 against the proposal, and the Gulleys build their house.[16,17]


Wisconsin athletic director Ivan Williamson cancels the school's contract to play two games against Louisiana State after Louisiana passes legislation outlawing integrated sporting events in the state. The Badgers were scheduled to play the Tigers in 1957 and 1958.[56]


Helen McLean gets an interview with the Madison School District and would be its first black teacher, but the interviewing committee doesn't hire her. The committee chairman says he didn't think the parents of white students would be comfortable with a black teacher. McLean is soon hired to teach in Beloit. After her story reaches the media, Madison hires her to start at Longfellow Elementary in 1961.[39]



Using federal urban renewal funds through the Madison Redevelopment Authority, Madison starts demolishing "blighted" residences in the Triangle or Greenbush neighborhood, which was known for being a home to Madison's black, Italian and Jewish communities. Many blacks displaced from the "Bush" — the triangle-shaped area bounded by Regent and Park streets and West Washington Avenue — relocate to south Madison, where some areas became 60 to 70 percent black. Other Greenbush residents find housing in black neighborhoods on the near east side or near the airport on the north side. Of 767 housing units deemed suitable for people relocating from Greenbush, only 123 have owners or managers who would show them to nonwhites. White homeowners deny being prejudiced but claim there is a potential for loss in property value from black families entering their neighborhoods. Residents being forced from their homes are given 60 days to sell their property and move, but it takes until 1966 for the last family displaced from Greenbush to be relocated. Wrote author Julie Curti later: "The community was literally torn apart and the land the people had worked so hard to improve was no longer theirs. In what was a bitter irony for the former Greenbush residents, the city eventually used the Greenbush plat to erect low-income housing units."[25,39,40]


Responding to student calls for action after black members of the basketball team weren't allowed to stay at the same hotel as their white teammates on a trip to play Rice University in Houston, the UW-Madison Athletic Board adopts a policy to prevent Badgers teams from playing where segregated accommodations are required. From the resolution: "(W)herever a Wisconsin team plays another institution in any athletic events, the members of the team are to be permitted to travel together, lodge and dine together, and play together as a team without discrimination as to any members comprising the team, resulting from a policy of the institution or from local or state laws, customs or practices."[55]


Madison's black workforce is concentrated in unskilled jobs, and the pay rates reflect it. Nonwhite men in Madison earn a median income of $2,329, $1,891 less than the median income of all males.[25]


Madison's black population in the decennial Census is 1,489, 1.2 percent of the total population. The population may be bolstered by as many 300 blacks enrolled at UW-Madison or stationed at Truax Field.[25]


One of the Greenbush neighborhood buildings to be torn down by the Madison Redevelopment Authority at 763 W. Washington Ave. houses the Tuxedo Tavern, and owners Zachary and Maxine Trotter have trouble finding a place to relocate. A proposed move to 1044 S. Park St. draws petitions signed by more than 200 people objecting because they claim it would create a parking problem. The Trotters are reluctant to say racial prejudice played a role in the rejection of the transfer of the tavern license but point out that another license was moved without protest. In 1961, the Trotters finally got approval for a license at 1616 Beld St.[39]


1961 civil rights sit-in

1961: A group of protesters in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda protests in favor of civil rights for African-Americans.

The NAACP on July 31 starts a nonviolent sit-in at the State Capitol, hoping to force action on fair-housing bills in the Legislature. Sixteen demonstrators, black and white, sit in chairs, each against one of the 16 pillars of the rotunda. They pledge to stay night and day until legislation prohibiting housing discrimination is passed or the Legislature adjourns. On Aug. 11, the Assembly votes against the bill 53-39 and the Senate kills two separate human rights bills 23-9.[66,67,68,69]



Donna Lindsay Salk.

Madison's push for fair housing gets a boost from an Oct. 11 appearance by Donna Lindsay Salk, wife of polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk. She had worked for equal rights in Pittsburgh and shares experiences on how to organize at the grassroots level. In a speech at a program sponsored by the Madison Coordinating Committee for Social Concerns and 19 other groups, Salk calls the lack of equal housing opportunities "the most important single problem in group relations today." Her appearance appears to be well received. "It was a major thrust in the Madison community as we looked toward eventually having equal opportunities in housing," the Rev. James Wright later said.[75,76]



Marshall Colston in 1968.

With the civil rights movement fully engaged around the country, some tell Madison NAACP President Marshall Colston they want to see demonstrations locally. "This isn't Birmingham," Colston tells the Wisconsin State Journal for a July 30 story. "A demonstration wouldn't serve the same purpose here. Not now."[26]


At its Dec. 12 meeting, the Madison City Council passes an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing and employment, but the housing sections are watered down by amendments exempting owner-occupied houses and apartments. Mayor Henry E. Reynolds casts the tiebreaking vote for the proposal. The Madison Equal Opportunities Commission is formed in 1964.[29,53]


A group of black mothers forms a group to help black girls develop a positive self-identity. The Impressionettes Social Service club is open to girls age 14 to 18.[44,45]


Three-plus years after Carson Gulley's death in August 1962, the UW-Madison on Feb. 20 names a building after an African-American for the first time. Van Hise Refectory is renamed Carson Gulley Commons in honor of the longtime dormitory chef who practiced his trade in the building. It was renovated and renamed the Carson Gulley Center in 2013.[16,19]


Les Ritcherson comes to Madison as the Wisconsin Badgers' first black assistant football coach. In 1970, he became the UW-Madison assistant to the chancellor for affirmative action, a post he kept until the 1980s.[54]


The National Urban League approves an application for an affiliate to be located in Madison. Funding for the group is initially rejected by the Givers Fund, now known as the United Way, because "discrimination as it exists in other communities does not exist in Madison."[48]


At a Bascom Hill memorial service the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., black students give emotionally charged speeches in front of about 3,000 onlookers. Clara Meek references King's most famous speech, saying: "I have a dream, too, that one day every darn one of you is going to pay. ... I wonder what kind of people you are. You never get upset about anything." Violence flares in cities across America but no unrest is reported in Madison.[28]


After threatening to boycott the final game of the season against Minnesota, 18 black Wisconsin football players skip the team's season-ending banquet. The group earlier filed a list of grievances with the UW Athletic Board, saying the coaching staff lacked rapport with the black players and that coaches stacked black players at one position. Assistant coach Gene Felker resigns, complaining of "weak, frightened administrators, black athletes and their grievances." The Athletic Board recommends establishment of a coach-player committee to address grievances, but it also gives unanimous endorsement to John Coatta, who was 0-19-1 in his first two seasons as head coach.[57]



Rev. James C. Wright in 1983.

After serving as chairman of Madison's Equal Opportunities Commission, the Rev. James Wright is selected by Mayor Otto Festge as the group's first executive director. Wright, months earlier, starts to attend the National Urban Training Center in Chicago, which taught clergy about social awareness and legislative programs, but returns to the EOC. "We were looking forward to eight or 10 years and then we would have certainly worked ourselves out a job," Wright said in 1983. He continued to work for the EOC until his retirement in 1992.[76,77,78]



Ald. Eugene Parks.

Eugene Parks, 21, associate editor of the Madison Sun, begins a long career in city government in his hometown when he defeats incumbent George F. Jacobs 343-92 in an aldermanic election.[27]


Demanding an education "relevant to black people," black students at UW-Madison on Feb. 7 call for a student strike of classes that ends up becoming a demonstration for which the governor calls the National Guard. A half-dozen students present Chancellor Edwin Young a list of 13 demands, including the formation of a Black Studies department, more black students and more black faculty. That started a week of protests around campus that organizers emphasize are to be nonviolent, but on Feb. 12, Gov. Warren Knowles activates 900 members of the Wisconsin National Guard at the request of Young and UW President Fred Harvey Harrington. Thousands of people participate in marches and rallies. On March 3, the faculty approves a plan to establish a Black Studies Department, which black students recognize as a "first step" toward realization of their 13 demands. The UW-Madison Department of Afro-American Studies is approved by the UW Board of Regents in 1970.[86]


The Madison Urban League's first executive director, Nelson L. Cummings, tells a group of about 425 attendees at the group's first annual dinner that he spends time in the white community to know more about the city's racial problems. "A good place for black power to begin is in the white community," he says. "Blacks are not the problem; they are the victims of the problem."[48]


Madison's black population in the decennial Census is 2,607, 1.5 percent of the total population.[83]



Georgia legislator and civil rights activist Julian Bond speaks to an audience of about 300 at the UW Field House, emphasizing the need for a strong black political organization. Recommending that local groups be formed in cities with large black populations, he says, "When it works against you it's a machine; when it works for you it's an organization, and what we need are many, many black organizations."[70]


In the wake of the shooting of presidential candidate and Alabama Gov. George Wallace, social activist Dick Gregory condemns violence in a speech at the UW Field House. "The same forces that shot George Wallace — that shot Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Kennedys — will shoot you and your mama," says Gregory, who is 13 months into a fast to protest the Vietnam War.[71]


Teacher John Byrd charges racial discrimination in his firing by the Madison School District. Byrd, a fourth-grade teacher at Marquette Elementary School, tells an arbitrator that his teaching performance was monitored to the point of harassment. He is the only black member of the Marquette faculty. A settlement is reached but Byrd, initially represented by Madison Teachers Inc., declines to sign it and hires his own lawyer. Byrd later withdraws the racial discrimination claims but not the claim that his contractual rights had been violated. He is reassigned in the district.[72,73,74]


The Madison School Board adopts an affirmative action policy that commits the school district to actively recruit minorities and women for jobs. Ald. Eugene Parks speaks before the board, arguing that well-qualified minorities could have been hired for district positions had they known about job openings. Parks adds that he knows of two people who were told the district was not hiring at a time when it was filling positions in personnel and curriculum.[73]



Richard Harris in 2014.


Sandra Solberg in 1975.

Two south Madison neighborhood centers file a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights claiming racial discrimination by the Madison School District. Sandra Solberg and Richard Harris, working with the South Madison Neighborhood Center and Neighborhood House, call Madison school Superintendent Douglas Ritchie's plan to close Hoyt, Longfellow and Sherman elementary schools and Lincoln and Sherman middle schools another step in undermining equal educational opportunities, particularly in south Madison. The OCR ruled in June 1983 that the Madison schools were discriminating against minority students in the school closures and boundary changes. In deciding to close Longfellow and convert Lincoln from a middle school to an elementary school, the school board "knowingly created and perpetuated conditions of racial-ethnic isolation" at Lincoln and Franklin, the OCR reported. In response, the district developed an integration plan that partnered Lincoln and Franklin schools with west-side counterparts Midvale and Randall.[39,41,42]



Kwame Salter (center) speaks to Walter Lenz, past president of the East Side Kiwanis Club.

Madison School Board member Kwame Salter finishes fifth in a 10-way primary to replace Mayor Paul Soglin, who did not run for re-election. Salter, who is black, gains 1,963 votes, 5 percent of the total. Joel Skornicka goes on to win the election.[52]


Madison's black population in the decennial Census is 4,603, 2.7 percent of the total population.[82]


Almost three years in the making, the South Madison Neighborhood Plan is approved to address issues including street improvements along South Park Street. The $1 million project also involves the development of new parks and upgrading existing ones, planting trees, constructing bike paths, expanding recreational facilities, enhancing the business climate and rehabilitating buildings.[85]


The Madison Metropolitan School District pays Cherokee Middle School Principal John Odom $18,000 to drop a race discrimination suit. Odom charges he had been passed over for promotion. The district also reaches settlements with administrators Darlene Hancock and Allen Hancock, a married couple who alleged discrimination in work assignments and promotions.[50]



A five-day Capital Times series called "The Other Madison" sheds light on being black in Madison. The series by Jacob Stockinger starts this way: "The story of the white Madison — a liberal, well-educated, affluent and all-American city — is well known. Less well known is the black Madison where racism and discrimination, prejudice and bias, intrude daily into personal and professional lives."[49]


Black students are suspended three times more often than white students in Madison schools, a report prepared for the Madison Urban League says. The report, by UW-Madison social work student Janet Bauer, also says blacks make up only 3.68 percent of the teaching staff, while black students make up 10 percent of elementary enrollment, 11 percent of middle school enrollment and 6 percent of high school enrollment.[51]



Eugene Parks in 1999.

After a tumultuous series of events, Eugene Parks is given his termination notice as the city's affirmative action officer while sitting at the bar at the Fess Hotel on Oct. 27. Earlier in the year, Parks criticizes Mayor Joseph Sensenbrenner on a number of topics and calls some Madison Area Technical College board members "cowards and racists" for allegedly backing out on an agreement to hire a black district director. In 1989, Parks filed lawsuits to be reinstated, saying his constitutional and civil rights were violated. The state Court of Appeals ruled in 1995 that Parks was improperly dismissed and was entitled to back pay and benefits.[31,32]


Madison's non-Hispanic black population in the decennial Census is 7,948, 4.2 percent of the total population.[36]



A March 14, 1990, photo shows the aftermath of a fire on Sommerset Circle.

A March 13 fire at 2460 Sommerset Circle kills five children, and a Madison Police sergeant is suspended for singing "Sommerset Circle is burning down" to the tune of "London Bridge" during a conversation with a radio dispatcher. Derek Robinson, 9, Kenneth Jones, 5, Ebony Jones, 2, Cynthia Jones, 1, and Mark Robinson, 5 months die in the blaze, during which Sgt. Susan Pirocanac jokingly sings over the airwaves. The song fuels divisions between Sommerset residents and the police and fire departments. Pirocanac and 911 dispatcher Janan Cronn are suspended without pay for five and three days, respectively. Residents also question the fire department's response time to the blaze, estimated at 21 minutes.[79]



Richard Williams in 2000.

Richard Williams is unanimously chosen as Madison's first black police chief. He comes from the Montgomery County Police Department in Rockville, Md., and is one of nine African-Americans in a pool of 70 applicants.[35]


A Capital Times investigation shows that blacks received more than 13 percent of traffic citations written between January 1994 and October 1995 despite making up only 4 percent of Madison's population. Madison Police Chief Richard Williams says his officers did not target blacks but that they may have been involved in more traffic stops in areas of concentrated drug activity. The city's Task Force on Race Relations in 1998 recommended that police test usage of video cameras in squad cars to "promote mutual trust."[33,34]



James C. Wright Middle School in 1997.

The new south Madison middle school opens as James C. Wright Middle School, honoring the Madison reverend and civil rights leader. The Madison Metropolitan School District was planning to build a school to replace Lincoln in the Fitchburg area, and Wright was instrumental in getting the facility located in south Madison, at the corner of Fish Hatchery Road and Plaenert Drive. Wright, the pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church, drafted Madison's equal opportunities ordinance and served as the Equal Opportunities Commission's executive director for 24 years.[39,43]



Eugene Parks (left) and John Roussos party at the Labor Temple despite an overwhelming defeat in the 1999 mayoral election.

Eugene Parks is soundly defeated in his bid to become Madison's mayor. He didn't make it out of the primary in the 1988 mayoral election but advances to the general election in 1999, losing to Sue Bauman 80 percent to 19 percent. Of electing a black man as mayor, Parks says: "They cannot accept making that kind of change."[46]


Steve Levine, executive director of the Dane County Youth Connection, develops a 10-session program called "Building Bridges" that explores values, beliefs and attitudes that shape race relations. Story: Real life talk about race: Madisonians laugh, cry, learn with the 'Bridges'[58]


Madison's non-Hispanic black population in the decennial Census is 11,987, 5.8 percent of the total population.[37]


Sparked by a Capital Times investigation in 1996 that showed the number of traffic citations issued to blacks is disproportionate to the population, Madison police say they'll record the race and gender of everyone encountered in a traffic stop. Mayor Sue Bauman's Task Force on Race Relations had criticized the department's handling of racial issues and called for changes to improve the department's reputation with Madison's minority communities. Police officials are hesititant to say that racial profiling happens in Madison, but they agree to collect data to study the issue.[80]




Fabu is named Madison's first black poet laureate. It is a volunteer position. The city proclamation naming Fabu says she was chosen for the position "in honor of her years as a major figure in Madison's literary arts movement, inspiring great interest in poetry, reading and writing in Madison, especially in the women's community, among school-aged children and in communities of color."[81]


Madison's non-Hispanic black population in the decennial Census is 16,507, 7.1 percent of the total population.[38]



Kaleem Caire.

Pointing toward an achievement gap between black and white students in Wisconsin that ranks among the worst in the country, Urban League of Greater Madison President and CEO Kaleem Caire proposes a charter school geared toward boys of color in grades 6 through 12. The plan for Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men, better known as Madison Prep, is later amended to create a separate all-girls school at the same time in response to equal-opportunity concerns. School Board members say the plan violates the district's contract with Madison Teachers Inc., which says all students have to be taught by union teachers; Madison Prep wants to use non-union teachers like the 30 early childhood centers participating in the district's 4-year-old kindergarten program. The board voted 5-2 in December 2011 to deny Madison Prep a chance to open in fall 2012, but supporters pledged to keep working toward opening the school, either within or outside of the Madison district.[59,60,61,62,63]


The Race to Equity report is released; it shows that racial disparities in poverty, education and unemployment are greater — sometimes far greater — in Dane County than state and national averages. It cites 2011 statistics showing the unemployment rate for African-Americans is 25.2 percent, compared to 4.8 percent for whites. Over half of Dane County's black households are getting by on less than $20,000 a year.[47]



Rev. Alex Gee.

In a December cover story called "Justified Anger," the Rev. Alex Gee of Fountain of Life Covenant Church writes of frustrations with Madison's "parallel society that boasts of an equality that can't quite be guaranteed." Response to the article leads Gee to launch the Justified Anger coalition, a community-wide effort to address the racial disparities Madison faces.[64,65]


1. Barbara Robinson Shade, "The first blacks in Madison were only step above slavery." The Capital Times, May 14, 1979.

2. Mark Gajewski, "African American Mayoral Candidates." Historic Madison, Inc.,'s%20Past/connectingwithourpast/africanamerican.html

3. Edward Noyes, "A negro in mid-nineteenth century Wisconsin life and politics." Wisconsin Academy review, fall 1968.

4. Barbara Robinson Shade, "'Passing' as white helped some area blacks survive." The Capital Times, May 15, 1979.

5. David V. Mollenhoff, "Madison: A History of the Formative Years."

6. Barbara Robinson Shade, "Blacks had their own goals in joining war for freedom." The Capital Times, May 16, 1979.

7. Barbara Robinson Shade, "Reconstruction offered tantalizing hint of freedom." The Capital Times, May 18, 1979.

8. Barbara Robinson Shade, "Racial blocks didn't deter black businesses." The Capital Times, May 21, 1979.

9. Barbara Robinson Shade, "Blacks had to work extra hard to succeed." The Capital Times, May 22, 1979.

10. Genevieve G. McBride and Stephen Byers, "The first mayor of Black Milwaukee: J. Anthony Josey." Wisconsin Magazine of History, winter 2007-08.

11. Stuart D. Levitan, "Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1."

12. Erika Janik, "Madison: History of a Model City."

13. Wisconsin State Journal, Oct. 5, 1924.

14. Mark Gajewski, "Carson Gulley." Historic Madison, Inc.,'s%20Past/Newsletter/carsongulley.html

15. Barbara Robinson Shade, "Chef Carson Gulley made culinary history at UW." The Capital Times, May 23, 1979.

16. "The Life & Times of Carson Gulley." Video by UW-Madison Housing.

17. Kaz Oshiki, "Their Own Home — At Last!" Baltimore Afro-American, February 8, 1955.

18. Michael Penn, "The Life of Pie." On Wisconsin, Spring 2006.

19. Carson Gulley Center Overview.

20. David V. Mollenhoff, "Madison: A History of the Formative Years."

21. Wisconsin State Journal, April 21, 1909.

22. Wisconsin State Journal, Oct. 25, 1911.

23. Wisconsin State Journal, July 10, 1914.

24. Wisconsin State Journal, July 11, 1914.

25. William F. Thompson, "The History of Wisconsin: Volume VI."

26. Wisconsin State Journal, July 30, 1963.

27. The Capital Times, April 2, 1969.

28. The Capital Times, April 5, 1968.

29. The Capital Times, Dec. 13, 1963.

30. The Capital Times, Feb. 28, 2005.

31. The Capital Times, June 24, 1989.

32. Wisconsin State Journal, Dec. 29, 1995.

33. The Capital Times, May 22, 1996.

34. The Capital Times, Sept. 15, 1998.

35. The Capital Times, June 5, 1993.

36. U.S. Census, 1990.

37. U.S. Census, 2000.

38. U.S. Census, 2010.

39. Richard Harris, Ph.D., "Growing Up Black in South Madison."

40. Julie Curti, "A Sense of Place: The Greenbush Community of Madison, Wisconsin." Illumination: The Undergraduate Journal of Humanities, spring 2006.

41. The Capital Times, Nov. 21, 1979.

42. The Capital Times, June 27, 1983.

43. The Capital Times, March 4, 1995.

44. The Capital Times, Jan. 23, 1965.

45. Kaleem Caire, Facebook post, April 20, 2014.

46. The Capital Times, April 7, 1999.

47. Race to Equity report.

48. Shauna Rhone, Urban League of Greater Madison 40th Anniversary Report.

49. The Capital Times, May 2, 1983.

50. The Capital Times, May 4, 1983.

51. Wisconsin State Journal, July 1, 1987.

52. The Capital Times, Feb. 21, 1979.

53. City of Madison, Significant federal state and local equal employment opportunity laws.

54., "UW Athletics Black History: football assistant coach Les Ritcherson."

55., "1958 Basketball Article."


57. The Capital Times, Dec. 18, 1968.

58. The Capital Times, Jan. 11, 1999.

59. The Capital Times, Aug. 30, 2010.

60. The Capital Times, Sept. 7, 2011.

61. Wisconsin State Journal, Dec. 20, 2011.

62. Wisconsin State Journal, Dec. 16, 2011.

63. The Capital Times, Dec. 14, 2011.

64. The Capital Times, Dec. 18, 2013.

65. The Capital Times, April 7, 2014.

66. The Capital Times, July 31, 1961.

67. "U.S. civil rights activists occupy Wisconsin State Capitol to demand human rights act, 1961," Global Nonviolent Action Database.

68. The Capital Times, Aug. 11, 1961.

69. The Capital Times, Aug. 12, 1961.

70. The Capital Times, May 24, 1971.

71. The Capital Times, May 20, 1972.

72. The Capital Times, Aug. 13, 1973.

73. The Capital Times, Sept. 5, 1973.

74. The Capital Times, Dec. 4, 1973.

75. The Capital Times, Oct. 12, 1962.

76. Interview with James Wright, June 14, 1983. By Historic Madison, Inc.

77. The Capital Times, May 18, 1968.

78. Biography of Rev. James C. Wright, City of Madison.

79. The Capital Times, March 13, 1991.

80. The Capital Times, April 24, 2001.

81. The Capital Times, Jan. 9, 2008.

82. Wisconsin State Journal, April 21, 1981.

83. The Capital Times, Aug. 25, 1972.

84. U.S. Census, 1950.

85. The Capital Times, Jan. 26, 1981.

86. "Campus disruptions: black protest," The University of Wisconsin Collection.

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