Inner Core

Click the image to learn more. A 1959 report defined the portion of Milwaukee occupied primarily by African Americans as the city's "Inner Core."

In 1959, Mayor Frank Zeidler called a public conference and assembled a group of community activists and researchers to discuss the “Social Problems of the Core of the City.” The group’s final report was issued on April 15, 1960. Titled “Mayor’s Study Committee on Social Problems in the Inner Core Area of the City” but known informally as the “Zeidler Report,” the report detailed problems and potential solutions in the neighborhoods labeled Inner Core.[1] Bounded by Juneau Avenue on the south, 20th Street on the west, Holton Street on the east, and Keefe Avenue on the north, the Inner Core was occupied primarily by poor black southern migrants.[2] The report documented racial segregation in Milwaukee’s housing.

Upon its publication, the Common Council’s Building and Grounds Committee sought to put the report “on file.” Alderperson Vel Phillips protested burying the Zeidler Report in this way, ensuring that it would not be ignored.[3]

Following the publication of the Zeidler Report, numerous local social scientists used the term Inner Core in published studies documenting how race, socioeconomic status, and education level intersected for a portion of the population living within Milwaukee. These studies explored a number of local topics, including business practices, recreation, and police-community relations.[4] The term Inner Core was used in Milwaukee in a way parallel to “Inner City” in other American metropolitan regions but largely fell out of academic use after the 1960s. However, in media discussions of Milwaukee’s continued “hyper-segregation” as well as in the re-development of residential and commercial spaces, the term Inner Core continues to appear into the twenty-first century.[5]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ “Community Commission Secretly Discusses Inner Core,” Milwaukee Journal, April 1, 1962. On several occasions during the six-month study period, the Milwaukee Journal published articles referring to the city’s Inner Core: “Platform Stresses ‘Inner Core,’” Milwaukee Journal, October 23, 1959; “Call Issued for Unity in ‘Inner Core,’” Milwaukee Journal, February 2, 1960.
  2. ^ However, these bounds were arbitrary and fluctuated over time. For a 1963 study conducted by the UWM School of Social Work, the area was expanded to include up to Capitol Drive on the north and 27th Street on the west; see Charles O’Reilly, Willard Downing, and Steven Pflanczer, The People of the Inner Core-North (New York, NY: LePlay Research, Inc., 1965), 4; The Committee, Final Report to the Honorable Frank P. Zeidler, Mayor, City of Milwaukee (Milwaukee, WI: n.p., 1960).
  3. ^ “Milwaukee: Report on Inner Core Needs Studying, Not Burying,” Milwaukee Journal, May 6, 1960.
  4. ^ Numerous studies of the Inner Core were conducted, including one by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Social Work: O’Reilly, Downing, and Pflanczer, The People of the Inner Core-North. Other examples include: Marlene Sonju, “Recreation and the Inner Core Area of Milwaukee” (Master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1960); Charles O’Reilly, The Inner Core North: A Study of Milwaukee’s Negro Community (Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1963).
  5. ^ Tom Daykin, “Milwaukee Developer Aims to Improve City Living,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 20, 2012, accessed May 6, 2016; “Economic Recovery in Milwaukee Lags Rest of Region,” WHBL website, December 8, 2014, accessed May 6, 2016.

For Further Reading

“City within a City: When Pretty Soon Runs Out.” Wisconsin Public Television video, 29:27,

Easley, Eddie V. The Negro Businessman in the Milwaukee Inner Core. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Extension, Commerce Department, 1967.

Hansell, Ch. R., and W.A.V. Clark. “The Expansion of the Negro Ghetto in Milwaukee: A Description and Simulation Model.” Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografe (Journal of Social and Economic Geography) 61(1970): 267-277.

Jones, Patrick D. The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee. Cambridge, MA:, Harvard University Press, 2009.

Niemuth, Niles, “Urban Renewal and the Development of Milwaukee’s African American Community: 1960-1980.” MA thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2014.

O’Reilly, Charles. The Inner Core North: A Study of Milwaukee’s Negro Community. Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1963.

O’Reilly, Charles, Willard Downing, and Steven Pflanczer. The People of the Inner Core-North. New York, NY: LePlay Research, Inc., 1965.

Rose, Harold M. “The Development of an Urban Subsystem: The Case of the Negro Ghetto.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 60 (1970): 1-17.

Sonju, Marlene. “Recreation and the Inner Core Area of Milwaukee.” Master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1960.

The Committee. Final Report to the Honorable Frank P. Zeidler, Mayor, City of Milwaukee. Milwaukee, WI: n.p., 1960.

Trotter, Joe William Jr. Black Milwaukee: The Making of an Industrial Proletariat, 1915-45. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1985.


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