Bronzeville Milwaukee / The Walnut Street Community

© Photographed September 13, 2014
Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
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The Walnut Street
In most cities across the nation, African Americans were denied access to the newer and more affluent parts of those cities. Milwaukee was no exception.

Discrimination in housing and other types of racial discrimination were legal in the United States until the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Bills of the 1960's.

In Milwaukee's early years, African Americans were limited as to where they could live, work and play. They responded to this segregation by putting their energy into developing their own community, transforming this "ghetto" or "inner city" into a lively and exciting business, social and entertainment district. This district became known as "Bronzeville."

The main street of this community was Walnut  Street, especially between 3rd Street (now M.L. King Drive and 12th Street). By the 1930's the number of African American-owned businesses exceeded all others with the highest concentration between 6th and 9th Streets.

The growth of Bronzeville paralleled the growth of African American businesses in Milwaukee. It sparked the formation of many business, civic and social organizations designed to develop and maintain the vitality of the area.

The people there took great price in what they had accomplished and welcomed everyone to come to this neighborhood. There was always entertainment going on. There were choirs, choruses, local bands and street corner"doowops." There were churches, finishing schools, social clubs, baseball teams, boxing clubs, ice cream parlors, ballrooms, supper clubs, taverns, restaurants, barber shops, beauty parlors and one of the finest movie theaters. Milwaukee's Bronzeville was frequented by world-renowned musicians like Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Cab Calloway and other entertainers. They played to appreciative audiences of all races.

This area thrived until the freeway construction and urban renewal projects of the 1960's and 1970's removed these homes and businesses in order to build the present day Walnut Street.
The plaque is affixed to the Walnut Street Bridge, where it crosses U.S. Route 41, between North 12th Street (to the west) and North 10th Street (to the east), Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53205.

City of Milwaukee: Bronzeville Cultural and Entertainment District: History

Milwaukee's Bronzeville, devastated by freeway construction, remembered and understood by a scholar-artist who sees some rays of hope as the city celebrates Bronzeville Week.  

2016 Bronzeville Week
  • Culture, history, art, commerce, community and culture rooted in a rich urban tradition will be celebrated August 6-13, 2016 when the 4th annual Bronzeville Week is held in Milwaukee, hosted by Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs and Friends of Bronzeville.
  • The Bronzeville Cultural and Arts Festival will be held on August 6, 2016 from 10am to 6pm.
  • Click here for more information.

Bronzeville is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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