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African Americans

Nineteen men stand in three rows at a construction site. Each of the men wears long sleeves shirt and a hat. Almost all have long pants and jackets on. Four wheelbarrows appear in the middle of this grayscale longshot image. A machine in the center releases steam.
The African American community in Milwaukee dates from the earliest days of the city’s settlement, though the main story is found in the Great Migration—the mass exodus of black southerners to northern, industrial, urban centers through the twentieth century. The black population in Milwaukee remained very small throughout the nineteenth century and into the World… Read More

Armenians

Long shot of the facade of the Holy Resurrection Armenian Apostolic Church with street and sidewalk in the foreground. The church's main entrance is emphasized with an arched-shaped treatment surrounded by dark warm orange walls. A grey cross is placed above the entrance on the exterior walls. To the right, a sign provides information about upcoming services. The building has regularly spaced rectangle windows and a green front yard with an unadorned, symmetrical landscape design.
Armenia is a landlocked nation, located in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia, bordered by Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran. An independent state since 1991, Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century. From the end of World War I to 1991, it was a Soviet Socialist Republic within the USSR. Armenian… Read More

Asian Indians

In 2002, artist Gautam Pal's bronze statue of Mahatma Ghandi was unveiled outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse. The memorial was presented by the Wisconsin Coalition of Asian-Indian Organizations.
Scholars have described Asian Indian immigration to America as the “quiet migration.” Asian Indians began arriving in Milwaukee after the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Asian Indian immigrants usually possessed advanced degrees and became professionals and entrepreneurs after settling in Milwaukee. Milwaukee and Waukesha became home to many of these immigrants due… Read More

Austrians

Illustrated portrait of Joseph Salzmann gazing to his left in a priest's robe. He wears a pair of wire-rimmed glasses; one of his eyebrows furrowed. His left hand is folded back while his right hand holds a book.
From 1980-2010 about 10,000-15,000 people in the Milwaukee metropolitan area reported Austrian ancestry in the census. This number was quite similar to those who reported an Austrian birthplace in 1940, but quite a bit smaller than the 24,000 who reported their mother’s birthplace as Austria in 1910. The variability in these numbers reflects the assimilation… Read More

British

Medium shot of Bishop David Jackson Kemper in grayscale tone sitting on an armchair. He wears a light-colored shirt and a vest inside a collared suit. He poses with two arms resting on the chair while making eye contact with the camera lens.
The territory that became Milwaukee fell under British imperial rule in 1763 when Great Britain defeated France in the French and Indian Wars. It became a territory of the United States after American independence. Neither the British nor Americans settled the area at the time. The small fur-trading community remained predominantly French and Indian until… Read More

Chinese

Facade of the Toy Building by a sidewalk in grayscale. The image showcases its six-story structure with a touch of Chinese roof architecture. Chinese letters adorn its exterior walls. The building features a long canopy on the ground floor and a balcony on the second floor. A sign reading "Toy Chop Suey Dancing" projects from the building's third story.
Due to restrictive legislation, Chinese immigration to America remained very small in the late nineteenth century and remained so until the 1940s. Originally from Canton, China, the immigrants that arrived in Milwaukee migrated from the West Coast. The Chinese who came to Milwaukee usually were men who left behind their wives and children to find… Read More

Croatians

Grayscale high-angle shot of a large group of Croatians posing in an indoor space. People of different ages in traditional clothing hold each other's hands while standing in the center of the photograph. Two small children pose in the front with other adults. Many people sit and stand in the background.
Milwaukee’s Croatian community dates to the first decade of the twentieth century. United States Census figures indicate that in 1910, over 3,000 Croatians and Serbs, identified by mother tongue and grouped together at that point, lived in the city. Despite their rural backgrounds, early Croatian Milwaukeeans worked in the city’s industrial sector in the city… Read More

Cubans

Main entrance of Cubanitas restaurant features soft green and orange exterior walls. A banner advertising the Cuban Day Celebration Street Party hangs on its glass wall. White vans parked on the street are reflected in the restaurant's plate glass windows.
Cubans began to appear in the Milwaukee area in noticeable numbers several years after the triumph of the Castro Revolution on January 1959. When Castro began to align himself with the Soviet Union, many Cubans on the island began to make plans to send their children out of the country in the Operation Peter Pan… Read More

Czechs

Exterior view of Bohemian Hall sits on a street corner facing right. This sepia-colored image shows two sides of the three-story building. The side on the left features an emergency fire escape attached to the brick wall. The right side consists of three sections. The place's name signage is inscribed in English on the central section's ground floor. The phrase "Cesko Americkas 1895" is inscribed at the top of the frong facade.
Immigrants from Bohemia and Moravia, called the “Czech Homelands” by the key scholar of Milwaukee’s Czech community, were one of the first ethnic groups to settle in the Milwaukee area in the middle of the nineteenth century. Then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today these lands form the Czech Republic, the western-most Slavic nation in… Read More

Dutch

A standing historical marker of Fox Point School and Burying Ground in a brown-colored material contains the description of the building written in white paint. The sign is erected over a green lawn filled with scattered brown leaves. Below the sign is a metal plate in the shape of Milwaukee County and highlighting local rivers reading "Landmark 1991 Mmilwaukee County." Some feet behind are trees growing outside a chain link fence. The text of the marker reads "Fox Point School and Burying Ground. A hewn-log schoolhouse was erected on this site during the winter of 1852-53 by school district no. 9, Township of Milwaukee. The structure was also used as a public meeting house, and for church services by the Reformed Church of Bethlehem, a Dutch congregation. In 1868, the adjoining tract was deeded to that congregation for cemetery purposes, although grave markers indicate burials had taken place as early as 1854."
Milwaukee’s Dutch population first appeared in the records of the 1860 United States Census when some 500 people reported their birthplace as the Netherlands. There is ample evidence, though, that they arrived considerably earlier. One account of the early Dutch suggests that, by 1832, a printer by the name of Lukwilder had moved to Milwaukee… Read More

Filipinos

A group of people in front of a row of lockers pose in yellow shirts. They make different hand gestures and smile.
The arrival of Filipinos in the Milwaukee metropolitan area took place after World War II. The Philippines were a United States colonial possession from the end of the Spanish American War in 1898 until the South Pacific nation gained its independence in 1946. Although the U.S. government denied naturalization rights to Filipino migrants during these… Read More

Finns

Long shot of a single-story Finnish log house featuring an enclosed entrance and rectangular windows. A brick chimney atop the roof releases soft grey smoke. A ladder lies on the roof's surface on the left. Another wooden ladder is positioned below it, leaning on the exterior wall. Green trees surround the sides and back of the cabin. A simple bench made of logs sits on the front green lawn.
Finns started to arrive in Wisconsin and Milwaukee in the final decade of the nineteenth century and the first two in the twentieth, though Milwaukee’s Finnish immigration increased most rapidly between 1910 and 1930. The Finnish ancestry population was small. In 1930, about 1,400 people in the Milwaukee metro area reported their father’s birthplace was… Read More

French

Initially constructed in 1947 and restored in 2007, this replica of French fur trader and Milwaukee co-founder Solomon Juneau's cabin is located in Juneau Park.
The Milwaukee area’s French heritage predates the history of the city. For thousands of years, the area at which Milwaukee would be founded was populated by American Indian groups. During the seventeenth century, French missionaries and fur traders, representing both France and the French colony of New France, began to populate areas of northern Wisconsin.… Read More

Germans

August 1914 photograph of the men's chorus of the Milwaukee Musikverein at a song festival in Elkhart Lake. With the outbreak of World War I in August of 1914, the German-American community would soon face discrimination and be forced to prove their loyalty once the U.S. entered the war in April 1917.
Milwaukee is the most German of major American cities, and Germans have constituted Milwaukee’s largest immigrant group. The city’s brewing industry, tradition of ethnic festivals, built environment, and history of working-class politics all display the influence of the German immigrants who arrived in especially large numbers during the half-century following 1850. As the number of… Read More

Greeks

Photograph of the original Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, built over ten years from 1904-1914. The current Annunciation Church hosts Greek Fest annually.
Greek immigrants began arriving in Milwaukee in the final decade of the nineteenth century, with the 1900 United States Census registering the first Greek-born Milwaukeeans. Arriving to a large extent from the Peloponnesus peninsula in the southwest of Greece, they left for America for a number of economic reasons, including poor soil and crop failures,… Read More

Hmong

Nao Shoua Xiong, one of the first Hmong refugees to settle in Milwaukee, completed training at Service Master in the early 1980s and opened his own successful cleaning business.
The Hmong came to the United States as political refugees from Laos beginning in the mid-1970s. As a result of their involvement with American military and humanitarian personnel during the war in Southeast Asia, more than 130,000 settled in the U.S. The 2010 census reported the U.S. Hmong population had risen to over 260,000. Almost… Read More

Hungarians

A group of people from the U.S. American Hungarian Societies of Wisconsin stand in front of their float at the 1940 Midsummer Festival.
Hungarians migrated to Milwaukee in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and in a small refugee migration following World War II and the Hungarian revolt of 1956. In 1910, almost 8,000 Milwaukeeans, or about 2 percent of the population, reported that their mother was born in Hungary. However, in the same census, only 1,306,… Read More

Irish

John Doyne (middle) and William O'Donnell (right) attend a ribbon cutting ceremony in 1975. Doyne and O'Donnell served as successive county executives from 1960 to 1988 and were known as Irish politicians.
Irish and Irish-American residents have been an important part of southeastern Wisconsin since the 1830s, creating a distinctive subculture that combined engagement in civic and business affairs with attention to cultural and political concerns in Ireland. As early as 1839, Dublin-born lawyer, journalist and businessman Hans Crocker helped launch the Milwaukee Lyceum—the precursor to the… Read More

Italians

William Calvano, national president of UNICO, stands next to Dorothy Matranga, Milwaukee chapter secretary, and Joseph Bruno, Milwaukee chapter president, in 1950. UNICO is the Italian word for "unique."
Italian immigrants began to come to Milwaukee, especially from Sicily, in significant numbers in the 1890s. They settled primarily in the Third Ward after the 1892 fire that devastated the ward. The community grew over the next generation, building a close-knit neighborhood and vibrant cultural presence in the city. By 1920, a few years before… Read More

Japanese

Two young boys and their mother perform a traditional Japanese song for school children gathered at the International Institute for Ethnic Spring Festival. The Japanese American Civic League was a member organization of the International Institute.
The presence of Japanese immigrants and their descendants in the Milwaukee area has been a function of America’s complex political history with Japan. From the late nineteenth to the early 20th century, a small migration of Japanese settled on the West Coast and Hawaii. Racial restrictions to the naturalization of non-white immigrants made the immigrant… Read More
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