“We’re Black, We’re Proud, We’re Commandos”: Respectability Politics, Armed Self-defense, and Gender Dynamics in the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council, 1958-1968
Ergen, Paul M.
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By the 1940s, Milwaukee was one of the most segregated cities in the country. Most black Milwaukeeans were forced to live in a ghetto known as the Inner Core. Black Milwaukeeans faced racial discrimination and segregation in housing, schools, and employment opportunities. Within the racial cultural landscape of the inner core, activists developed ideas, ideologies, and tactics in their quest for social justice. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Milwaukee branch Youth Council was the vanguard of several civil rights insurgences in Milwaukee during the 1960s. The Youth Council conducted a series of direct-action campaigns against racial discrimination in Milwaukee. However, the Youth Council’s direct-action tactics and the espousal of militant Black Power ideology put them in direct conflict with Milwaukee’s adult branch of the NAACP. The adherence to or rejection of respectability politics was at the core of this conflict. Within the black community, the issue of respectability politics created tensions between the two organizations along the lines of class, gender, education, skin complexion, and migratory status. The Youth Council’s direct-action protests also drew the ire of white Milwaukeeans, some of which engaged in white supremacist violence in an attempt to stop Youth Council campaigns. In 1966, in a response to white supremacist violence, the Commandos, an all-male proto Black Power self-defense organization, were organized to protect demonstrators from violent white counter protestors. The Commandos symbolized a working-class rejection of nonviolence.
African Americans -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee -- History -- 20th century
African Americans -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee -- Social conditions -- 20th century
Housing -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee -- History
Milwaukee (Wis.) -- History -- 20th century
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Milwaukee Youth Council -- History
African American youth -- Political activity -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee
African Americans -- Civil rights -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee -- History -- 20th century
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