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American Indian Movement

On August 14, 1971, Native American activists in Milwaukee staged a takeover of an abandoned Coast Guard station along the lakefront (at 1600 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive). Inspired by the Alcatraz occupation of 1969, these local members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) demanded, according to the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, that abandoned…
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This issue of the UWM Post from 1970 features an announcement for an upcoming march and festival  in support of "workers of the world who are trying to overthrow Amerikan imperialism."
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anarchism as “a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups.” In the early twentieth century, and again in the late 1960s and early 1970s, though little remembered today, advocates of…
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Bennett Law

The German-English Academy (left), founded in 1851 as a private school whose curriculum emphasized the German language, came under government regulation with passage of the Bennett Law.
The conflict over the Bennett Law of 1889 reveals the social forces acting on Milwaukee’s schools in the late-nineteenth century. Immigrant culture, nativism, and the push for “Americanization” were all at issue in this contest over the instructional language to be used in education. The roots of the Bennett Law lie in a speech by…
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Byron Kilbourn

A 2005 photograph of Byron Kilbourn's tombstone, located in Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery.
Of the three individuals considered Milwaukee’s founders, Byron Kilbourn could arguably rank first among these icons. Certainly in terms of a metropolitan vision, Kilbourn had the most ambitious and comprehensive dreams of not only what could happen in this part of Southeastern Wisconsin but also, importantly, what it would take to realize such dreams. Foremost,…
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Civil Defense

Published by the Milwaukee County Office of Civil Defense in 1956, this map shows evacuation routes in the event of a nuclear attack.
Civil defense was adopted as an important policy in postwar Milwaukee by Mayor Frank Zeidler. In 1948, fearing atomic warfare, Zeidler helped create the Civil Defense and Disaster Committee, and in 1952, city officials created the Department of Civil Defense. Milwaukee gained notoriety for comprehensive civil defense efforts which included over 3,000 volunteer “block wardens,”…
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Civil Disorder of 1967

A crowd of people walk past the Badger Paint store on Teutonia Avenue where Clifford McKissick was shot and killed during the civil disorder of 1967.
The Milwaukee civil disorder of 1967, often referred to as a riot, began on the evening of Sunday, July 30. By the following morning, confrontations on the city’s streets had essentially ended. Its brevity was the result of rapid, muscular responses by Milwaukee police, Mayor Henry Maier, and Wisconsin governor Warren Knowles, who sent in…
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Civil Rights

Milwaukee’s Civil Rights Movement was the culmination of longstanding efforts by African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and their white allies to improve social, political, and economic prospects for non-white Milwaukeeans. During the 1860s, a small group of African Americans struggled to win the franchise. With the arrival of thousands of Southern migrants during the Great…
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Clement Zablocki

Representative Zablocki speaks with President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House in this photograph from April 1968.
Clement J. Zablocki (1912-1983) represented Milwaukee’s South Side as a Democrat in the Wisconsin state senate from 1943 to 1948 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1949 to 1983. Of Polish ancestry, Zablocki was a lifelong devotee of his community and his Catholic faith. He attended St. Vincent DePaul Parish School, Marquette University…
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Common Council

In this photo, the 1898-1899 Common Council members gather in the council chambers. Until 1956, Milwaukee's Common Council members were all white males.
Milwaukee attained its official municipal status in 1846. As with many fundamental urban changes of the era, the catalyst for transformation from village to city was a series of social crises and territorial fights. In little more than a decade, Milwaukee had grown from a mere trading post to a community that would reach 20,000…
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County Executives

Milwaukee’s county executives are to county government what presidents are to the federal government, governors to states, and mayors to cities. In other words, they are the chief elected executive officer of Milwaukee County government. It was not always that way. The most widely recognized American approach to government has three separate and equal branches…
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A Milwaukee judge gives a speech from behind a desk to a room of men and women.
Milwaukee’s court system has steadily changed since Wisconsin was first organized as a territory. During the territorial era (1836-48), the Milwaukee area was one of three Wisconsin judicial districts; it was served by Judge Andrew Miller, who was both a trial judge and a member of the Territorial Supreme Court. At statehood, Wisconsin was divided…
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Daniel Bell

Portrait of Daniel Bell before he was killed by a Milwaukee police officer in 1958.
The “signal shot for the black freedom movement in Milwaukee” began as a routine traffic stop. On February 2, 1958, Daniel Bell, a twenty-two year old African American male, was pulled over for an inoperative taillight. Within moments he was fatally shot by Milwaukee patrolman Thomas Grady. The officer claimed that he chased and cornered…
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David Rose

Campaign advertisement for Milwaukee's five-time mayor, David Rose. A deft politician and showman, his administration faced significant criticism.
Born in Darlington, Wisconsin on June 30, 1856, David Stuart Rose studied law and joined his father’s legal firm when he was twenty years old. In time, he served as mayor of Darlington and as a Lafayette County judge before moving to Milwaukee in 1888 There he spent years building up his own law practice…
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Emil Seidel

Emil Seidel stands with his family in this portrait taken between 1910 and 1915.
The first socialist to govern a major American city, Emil Seidel (1864-1947) served as mayor of Milwaukee from 1910 to 1912. “Earnest, upright, and plain-spoken,” the former pattern-maker and alderman was a pragmatic politician who appealed to working-class voters. Seidel’s administration focused on efficiency and economy. Working closely with organized labor, the mayor and his…
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Frank Zeidler

Mayor Frank Zeidler signs a Book of Remembrance while members of the Zionist Organization of America look on in this 1949 photograph.
Frank Paul Zeidler (September 20, 1912-July 7, 2006) was the forty-first mayor of Milwaukee, serving from April 20, 1948 to April 18, 1960. His successful tenure coincided with the last dynamic period of growth in Milwaukee. While the post of mayor is nonpartisan, he is known as the last Socialist mayor of a major American…
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Fusion Party

Portrait of Gerhard Bading, Milwaukee's Milwaukee’s Fusion Party mayoral candidate in 1912, 1914, and 1916.
To blunt the potential of a labor candidate for mayor in 1888, Milwaukee Republicans and Democrats successfully merged their interests through a unity or fusion ticket. A similar tactic was used in 1908 within several aldermanic campaigns. Then immediately after SOCIALIST EMIL SEIDEL won the 1910 mayoral election, the Milwaukee Sentinel prophetically called for unity…
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Newspapers in 1899 and 1904 reveal the long history of gangs across the the region and the state.
Gangs, once called “boy gangs” to distinguish them from adult criminal gangs, have been a feature of urban America since the nineteenth century. The notion of gangs has always raised a number of issues, including race and ethnicity, economic opportunity, criminal behavior, and ultimately political decisions regarding the use of resources to address gangs as…
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George H. Walker

Portrait of George Walker, one of Milwaukee's original founders. He was elected mayor twice, first in 1851 and again in 1853.
George H. Walker was one of three prominent nineteenth-century founders of Milwaukee, along with Solomon Juneau and Byron Kilbourn. Born on October 22, 1811 in Lynchburg, Virginia, Walker first moved westward as a young teenager when he migrated to Gallatin, Illinois with his family. Then, in early 1834 he headed for Milwaukee and settled on…
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Greater Milwaukee Committee

The construction of the Milwaukee Arena, completed in 1950, was one of the first major initiatives for which the Greater Milwaukee Committee advocated. It is now known as the UWM Panther Arena.
Founded at the end of World War II, the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s (GMC) roots lie in the creation of the 1948 Corporation, a group of businessmen initially led by Richard Herzfeld, president of the Boston Store, and Irwin Maier, president of the Milwaukee Journal. They were concerned by the physical and economic conditions of downtown…
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Harold Breier

Harold Breier (1911-1998) was Milwaukee’s chief of police from 1964 to 1984, one of the longest tenures of chiefs of Milwaukee’s police department. He joined the department in 1940 at the age of twenty-nine. In 1943, after a brief stint in patrol, he became an acting detective and subsequently rose through the detective ranks until…
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