“Allied in the Fight: Jews, Blacks and the Struggle for Civil Rights” is an exhibit set to open at Jewish Museum Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, part of a Milwaukee-wide initiative commemorating the 50th anniversary of the city’s 1960s open housing marches.
The museum exhibit will focus on Black-Jewish cooperation both nationally and locally and on the civil rights movement. It’s also to mark the 50th anniversary of local open housing marches, when there were 200-plus nights of marching for a fair housing bill in Milwaukee.
The exhibit is to include civil rights pamphlets, photos and correspondence.
The 200-plus nights of marching started Aug. 27, 1967. The Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council/Commandos, Father James Groppi and Alderman Vel Phillips were leaders in opposition to housing segregation. They marched with others from the north side to the heavily-white south side nightly, facing counter protestors who jeered and threw bottles at them.
“It wound up getting national coverage,” said Molly Dubin, curator with the museum. The 1967 marchers sought a Milwaukee ordinance barring discrimination in housing, which was ultimately enacted both for the city and at the federal level.
One of the stars of the movement, Phillips, is an honorary co-chair of Allied in the Fight, along with Rueben Harpole, a longtime activist on behalf of Milwaukee’s black community. Groppi died in 1985.
The co-chairs of the exhibit are Ralph Hollmon, former CEO of Milwaukee Urban League and Fran Kaplan, the coordinator of America’s Black Holocaust Virtual Museum who is active in Milwaukee’s Jewish community.
Jews have historically had “shared experiences” with the black community, seeing a link between fighting for civil rights and opposing anti-Semitism, Dubin said. After World War II, many Jews “felt that they couldn’t stay silent on the topic of civil rights.”
The idea, she said, was that if we work together, it benefits us all.
An opening preview for Allied in the Fight is set for 7-9 p.m. on Jan. 18. The exhibit runs Jan. 19 through March 25.
The museum exhibit is affiliated with “200 Nights of Freedom,” a Milwaukee-based initiative that commemorates the open housing marches of five decades earlier. A calendar of ongoing 200 Nights of Freedom events is at 200NightsOfFreedom.org. Jewish Museum Milwaukee events are listed at JewishMuseumMilwaukee.org. Museum events include a Feb. 1 film screening and a Feb. 13 presentation on redlining.
“We hope that this is going to spark dialogue,” Dubin said. “So much of what we address historically is so relevant today.”
Jewish Museum Milwaukee, a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is at 1360 N. Prospect Ave. Museum hours: Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (open until 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month); Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. 414-390-5730. JewishMuseumMilwaukee.org. Museum admission: Adults $7; seniors $6; students $4; children age 6 and under are free; active duty military are free.
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Free community days
Jewish Museum Milwaukee is offering four free admission days for residents of Milwaukee County during the Allied in the Fight exhibit.
Sunday, Jan. 28, noon – 4 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 15, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 18, noon – 4 p.m.
Sunday, March 4, noon – 4 p.m.