Cultivating Inquiry through Multimedia Sources

Angela Scavone

In curating sources for teaching Milwaukee’s Civil Rights Movement, I came across such a wealth of informative resources, that my issue was not in finding quality sources, but in narrowing down to the very best ones. The amount of incredible sources on the subject just proves the point that as history educators in Milwaukee we have no excuse for not talking about Milwaukee’s civil rights movement and its current implications. In fact these sources have inspired me to eventually create an interdisciplinary inquiry into why Milwaukee is the most segregated city and what steps should be taken to alleviate the problem.

My top three sources:

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries and the Wisconsin Historical Society’s March on Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project is a multimedia collection of primary sources from the March on Milwaukee and other Milwaukee civil rights events. In addition to its collection of primary sources, it also acts as an encyclopedia of the movement in Milwaukee, as under the “Key Terms” page you can access information about key leaders, organizations, places, and events. The two most unique and interactive components of the project are the timeline and map. Spanning from, 1960–1968 when fair housing is passed, the timeline tells the story of Milwaukee’s Civil Rights Movement through integrating primary sources, while also providing brief descriptions of each event. The map provides a visual representation of the different events, allowing students to see where the different protests occurred and even follow the routes that marches took.

UWM March on Milwaukee

During our last class we discussed the importance of approaching historical topics from an interdisciplinary lens and the map will allow me to integrate geography into the unit, as my students and I can analyze the neighborhoods where these events took place to try and find patterns and common threads. Why did most events take place in the North side? Why did the marches go where they did?As all the content on the website is linked back to primary sources and the archives, I can see this source as being a great place to send my students in looking for primary sources for the beginning of their research when I have them complete, what my goal would be, an interdisciplinary inquiry into why Milwaukee is the most segregated city.

Similar to the UWM site, the Journal Sentinel’s “50-Year Ache: How Far Has Milwaukee Come Since the 1967 Civil Rights Marches?” is a multimedia website telling the story of Milwaukee’s fight for open housing, but takes it a step further and discusses how much has changed from then till now. The Journal Sentinel’s sight is heavier on the use of photos than UWM’s and also features audio and video reminiscences from participants in the marches. Another unique feature of the website is that it has a section that features views from teenagers residing in each Milwaukee community on how they see their neighborhood and Milwaukee.

Journal Sentinel

I think this would be a great tool for my students to see how Milwaukee looks from the eyes of another teen like them. The site also includes a variety of statistics, maps, and graphs showing how segregation came to be and has continued in Milwaukee. This would be a great source to reference throughout the unit as it contains information on the history of the 1960s movement, but also on the current situation. Since there is such a wealth and variety of information, I think this site would be great to use as a webquest for students to find out information about the March on Milwaukee, learn about different neighborhoods, and the problems that still persist. In doing this they can engage with a wide variety of content and mediums such as interviews, poetry, photos, statistics, videos, and stories. There is something for everyone in this cool site. I honestly spent an hour exploring just the students’ stories. I didn’t realize how far North the city of Milwaukee’s borders extends until I read one of the students’ interviews saying she lived next to Brown Deer. I had never realized this, and I proceeded to spend another 20 minutes looking at Google Maps and analyzing Milwaukee’s borders for myself. Inspired by Li-Ching Ho and Tricia Seow’s article “Teaching Geography through Chinatowns: Global Connections and Local Spaces,” I thought this would be another great opportunity to incorporate geography in the classroom. In the article they compared different Chinatown’s throughout the globe and I thought it would be interesting to do something similar with segregation. Students could compare the students’ different stories and neighborhoods. When reading the students’ stories, I could have them open Google Maps at the same time, so they can explore and see for themselves where these students are from. I could even take it a step further and compare Milwaukee’s segregation patterns to other Northern cities and then to Southern cities in trying to explain why Milwaukee is the most segregated city.

WUWM, Milwaukee’s NPR station, has a series of podcasts and articles on the issue of segregation in the past 60 years titled, “Project Milwaukee: Segregation Matters.” As this series seeks to explore the origins and endurance of segregation, it is the perfect blend of past and present, incorporating the multiple effects of segregation, and creating a multifaceted view on the issue. This makes the series PERFECT for interdisciplinary education on the topic, which as we discussed in our last class session and in Brandon M. Butler and Stephen R. Burgin’s “Jamestown and Power Lines: Teaching Controversy in an Inter-Disciplinary Manner” article, it is extremely important to look at an issue or topic from different disciplinary lenses and perspectives. I spent an hour totally nerding out about the diversity of sources this series provides. I could really envision myself launching an entire inquiry unit from these articles, grabbing students interests on different subtopics related to Milwaukee’s segregation and prompting them to engage in further research on these topics.

WUWM Milwaukee

For example, using the articles, “A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America,” and “‘The Color of Law’ Investigates the Government’s Role in Segregating America,” we could explore the role of politics in segregation. In reading, “Researcher Explores How Segregation Affects Maternal Mortality Rates,” and “Segregation’s Impact on Metro Milwaukee’s Health Disparities,” we can explore the connection between segregation and health. Using the articles, “Ever-Growing Milwaukee Group Stands Up for Clean Water Access for All,” “A Homegrown Environmental Justice Advocate,” and “Environmental Health & Justice Issues Figure Into Milwaukee’s Segregated Landscape,” we can integrate science in looking at environmental segregation and environmental justice. We can bring in math and statistics (I would call on the help of a math colleague to understand this for myself) through the articles, “Report Analyzes the Financial Cost of Segregation,” and “Data Draws Link Between Metro Milwaukee’s Segregation and Poverty.” And of course we can engage in the historical perspective through articles like, “History Helps Explain Connection Between Segregation and Concentrated Poverty in Milwaukee” and “Meeting Milwaukee’s ‘Great Migrants’ and Their Southern Roots.” I would use their video on “A History of Milwaukee School Segregation” as an introduction to the unit. Students can also learn about some of the things being done to take action and exact change, to hopefully, for the culminating activity of the unit, inspire them to take their own actions. One article they could discuss would be “Tosa Together Hopes to Create a City Where Everyone Feels They Belong,” which highlights the efforts of community members to break real and imagined racial boundaries in their community.

Other useful sources:
Joe William Trotter Jr. Black Milwaukee: The Making of an Industrial Proletariat, 1914–1945.
-Book on Milwaukee’s black community prior to 1945, as it is Important to not only learn about the 1950s and 1960s movement and protests but the underlying causes.

-NPR video giving an overview of why America’s cities are still so segregated.

  • The American Black Holocaust Museum located here in Milwaukee provides a variety of online collections relating to segregation and current issues.
  • A video giving an overview of the 200 Nights of Freedom movement commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Milwaukee.


Butler, Brandon & Burgin, Stephen. “Jamestown and Power Lines: Teaching Controversy in an Inter-Disciplinary Manner” Social Education, 80, 2016, 46–51.

Ho, Li-Ching & Tricia Seow. “Teaching Geography through Chinatowns: Global Connections and Local Spaces.” Social Education, 77, 2013, 36–41.

Investigating Inquiry in the Social Sciences

A future teacher currently taking my social studies methods course. Join me as I document my experience creating a Social Studies inquiry unit at the high school level!

    Angela Scavone

    Written by

    Investigating Inquiry in the Social Sciences

    A future teacher currently taking my social studies methods course. Join me as I document my experience creating a Social Studies inquiry unit at the high school level!

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