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Unwanted label: How did Milwaukee become known as “America’s most segregated major city?”

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MILWAUKEE -- It is a label getting national attention these days -- Milwaukee as America's most segregated major city.

Borders are everywhere. Many of them are easy to see. Others are invisible, but well-known to those around them.

Holton Street is the invisible border between diversified Riverwest and Harambee, which is almost exclusively black.

Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson

"We have to be able to understand what's happening today by looking into the past," said Reggie Jackson.

Jackson is documenting Milwaukee's history of segregation. He looks at the 1960s saying a mix of suburban expansion and shrinking industry left behind an urban core lacking good jobs.

"These were usually all white people that were leaving the central parts of the city. And as the manufacturing jobs started to leave, they left in even larger numbers. And so what was left was a pocket of mostly black and Latinos in these big cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee," Jackson said.

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Where Milwaukee stands apart from other "Rust Belt" cities is in the way so few black families left.

A 2013 study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found fewer than nine percent of black people in the Milwaukee metro area live in the suburbs -- the lowest rate in the country.

Using 2010 Census information, two different national studies ranked Milwaukee as America's most segregated metro region.

Darryl Johnson

Darryl Johnson

Darryl Johnson thinks the solution is to build up along the borders. Along Holton Street, his Riverworks Development Project will include a new Family Dollar, a restaurant and a laundromat. It will also have a financial literacy center for young people.

"What we really need to focus on is, how do we create wealth and equity in our communities that people feel comfortable living with other ethnic groups?" Johnson said.

UW-Milwaukee is scheduled to release an updated study in September. FOX6 News is told the findings are very similar.

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14 comments

  • So what

    So is a bunch of drunk drug addicted non educated lazy south side welfare recipients. Just saying. Hey white lives matter.

  • damien

    just curios if the person that wrote this article lives on the northwest side of Milwaukee. If not, I’d like to know why.

  • Norell

    The most dangerous city’s have been run by Liberal Dem’s for the last 60 years, maybe more. Why not ask Barrette and friends.? They are the slave owners.

  • Mike

    Why would I want to live in a northside neighborhood? So when they get mad they can burn my house and local businesses down? No thanks. I will live in my crime free neighborhood, they can live in the run down neighborhood they created.

  • Chrisco

    It just makes it easier to see who causes all the problems. I will walk around south side in the Hispanic neighborhoods without any fear.

  • Kendia

    What’s with the assumptions about a who uses drugs and is on welfare and food stamps? Those type of things don’t have anything to do with what race you are. You all sound so ignorant.

  • Klaatu

    I guess my parents were wrong to move from 24th & Locust in 1986. The neighborhood was deteriorating, our home had been broken into twice in five years, and my parents’ factory jobs were gone. The garage had been burned by arson so the vehicles were always parked outside and they found it was better to just leave the doors unlocked so the windows wouldn’t get smashed when those less fortunate were looking for valuables. After reading this I realize now they should have stayed there and commuted to their new jobs in Waukesha / Pewaukee. I do apologize for my parents’ desire to do better for themselves. By all means they should have sacrificed all they worked for so the community could just take what they wanted from them.
    I will sell my house and look to purchase one in the old neighborhood. And as an apology to all the current residents, you can take whatever my wife and I own because I know we owe you. Everyone who worked to get a degree and sustain themselves with gainful employment should be ashamed of themselves for not giving what they have to those who choose not to try and better themselves. As soon as the trolley has service in the area around 24th between Capital and North I’ll be moving back.

    • Liz

      LOVED your reply. Very tongue in cheek and very appropriate. Happy for you that your parents were smart enough and loved their family enough to get out of Dodge. It’s sad to see people who seem incapable of listening to good advice or taking personal responsibility for their lives. And the destruction of their neighborhoods and the larger community in the process.

    • winter

      Extremely ignorant, sarcastic comment.
      The degradation of inner city neighborhood didn’t happen until jobs left and houses were boarded up and redlined. Your parents wanting and being able to move into the suburbs is not the problem, although a lot of white flight was perpetuated by a narrative of fear created by government, banks and realtors to scare white people into thinking black people where an issue (blockbusting), your parents deciding to move because of break ins is fine. However, problems arose when black people would also try to make the same move and your parents and purchase property in the suburbs. They would be racially steered into trying to purchase homes in the inner city, either that or they’d just be told no. When trying to purchase the homes in the inner city, they would be redlined and not allowed to. A lack of property ownership in any community will lead to degradation, low quality public schooling etc.
      Educate yourself before making such silly comments.

  • Jim T.

    What do various groups want from young people? Society at large wants our youth (all “colors”; white, black, red yellow, brown) to be educated and productive so they can live good lives.
    What criminals and gangs want is for youth to be uneducated, scared, docile patsys who can be manipulated into complacency. Inner city thugs and crimimals are making themselves slaves, and blaming the system. Segregated? Who is really at fault, though?

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