Turning students into historians in Milwaukee for a civil rights project

tags: civil rights, Jasmine Alinder, Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin



Jasmine Alinder is Associate Professor of History, Coordinator of Public History, and Director of Urban Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Milwaukee, WI, has an important civil rights history that not many people know about. In the 1960s, battles raged here over open housing and school desegregation, and teens led much of the movement. Decades later, we still suffer from racial and economic segregation, but how many of our students can explain why? And what would it mean to them to find out that in 1960s Milwaukee, youth protested such inequality?

In 2010, a project team of archivists, digital librarians, students, and historians launched the March on Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project, an archive of primary sources and contextual materials. But how could we use this resource to help youth learn about their city’s past and feel invested in their communities? This question led to an unlikely partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee History and Archives Departments; an arts education nonprofit, Arts@Large; and a class of high school students with one very dedicated teacher. I say unlikely for two reasons. First, not everyone would combine social studies curriculum with the arts. Second, digital archives are valued for their accessibility, and instead of scaling our efforts up to reach the widest audience, we went the other way and decided to work closely with a dozen students from a school for at risk youth....




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