Thanks to HBO’s Watchmen, a lot more people now know about Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and how a racist white violent mob destroyed it. But did you know that in the mid-20th century Milwaukee also had a prosperous Black neighborhood?
It was called Bronzeville, a name started by historian Carter G. Woodson, the same man who created Black History Month way back in 1926. Since Black people are not always the color black, Bronzeville was a reference to the diversity of skin color. Black was and still is often used as a diminishing term, so Woodson flipped the script by calling it Bronzeville.
Bronzeville was a cornucopia of Black culture and community in Milwaukee. It was filled with Black-owned businesses, jazz clubs that Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday performed in, and restaurants that served food other than bratwursts.
But unlike Tulsa, a violent mob wasn’t the end of Bronzeville.
It was actually government officials who chose to bulldoze much of the neighborhood to make room for I-43 and what they ironically called “urban renewal.”
Today, Bronzeville is a center for major redevelopment efforts. It’s still a hub for Black culture and businesses, with an annual celebration of art, history, and entertainment. So save the date for this year’s Bronzeville Week, August 7th-14th.