As we’ve shared history of Milwaukee’s Open Housing Marches in communities around our city, we’ve found that this story of national importance is too often absent from our local memory. So, in addition to attending events throughout 200 Nights of Freedom, educating yourself about this history is a key way to honor the 50th anniversary.

Design a Monument

Contemporary artists show us that public monuments can be created to commemorate social justice events and issues.

50 years after the original marches and victory for fair housing, Milwaukee still has no public monument or memorial to the youth and adult activists who worked tirelessly to promote social justice, racial justice, and fair housing. What could a public monument to the movement look like? How can we commemorate the original marches and also acknowledge current activism in our cities?

We invite young people throughout the state of Wisconsin to submit entries of a public monument to the “Design a Monument Contest and Exhibition.” The contest is open for all youth from Grades 3-12. The theme of the contest is “Recognizing and Reigniting the March on Milwaukee.” Keywords that can inspire student designs include:

  • Social justice
  • Fair housing
  • Equal employment
  • Education
  • Equity
  • Youth empowerment
  • Civil rights
  • Peace

To read the official rules and see more details on this contest, see the attached info packet. Complete the attached entry form and email it and all photos/digital works to The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2018.

Submit a design for a monument

Read & Watch

Milwaukee-born historian Erica Metcalfe has written two crucial articles detailing the contributions of the NAACP Youth Council and Commandos to Milwaukee’s Open Housing marches.

Both published in Wisconsin Magazine of History, Metcalfe presents deeply important Milwaukee stories that are too often forgotten. It is the sincere opinion of the March On Milwaukee 50th committee that these two short articles are essential reading for all Milwaukeeans.

Read Future Political Actors by Erica Metcalfe, published in the autumn 2011 Wisconsin Magazine of History.

Read Commanding A Movement by Erica Metcalfe, published in the winter 2014-2015 Wisconsin Magazine of History.

For the 40th anniversary of Milwaukee’s Open Housing marches, Peggy Rozga wrote an article in the summer 2007 Wisconsin Magazine of History detailing the 200 nights of marching, from the first march on August 28th, 1967 to the passing of Vel Phillips’ fair housing resolution on April 30th, 1968. Click here to read March On Milwaukee by Peggy Rozga.

In June 2017, CNN produced the special Bill Weir: States of Change, including a fascinating interview with the Prentice McKinney about the Commando’s relationship to law enforcement in ’67-68. Click here to see the special.

Throughout the summer of 2017, the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service has been publishing a series of stories on Milwaukee’s Open Housing marches, including feature articles and interviews with marchers. Click here to see the series.

In 2015, Wisconsin Public Television created a documentary detailing the amazing life of Milwaukee civil rights leader Vel Philips, including her tireless advocacy for fair housing in Milwaukee. Click here to watch this documentary.

UW-Milwaukee Professor Emeritus Michael Gordon compiled this bibliography of suggested readings about African Americans, housing, education, and civil rights In Milwaukee.

Suggestions for further reading on the Open Housing Marches can be found at the UWM Library Archive’s March on Milwaukee archive.

Check back in the coming weeks for more resources, including curriculum and other resources.