Vol. 8    No. 3
FEBRUARY 7, 2013

The Capital City Hues
(608) 241-2000
gramling@capitalcityhues.com

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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Rebecca Her, Heidi
Pascual,  & Martinez White
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                         Madison's Black History
                TURNS 100
When I was covering President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in Washington, D.C. last month, an e-
mail came across my smart phone from Madison College announcing that James Hood had died. For 25
years, Hood worked for Madison College as the chair of protective services before retiring in 2002 and
moving back to his native Alabama.

James Hood, for those of you who may not remember, was one of two African American students who
desegregated the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa 50 years ago this coming June, backed by
federalized Alabama National Guard troops after then-Governor George Wallace had proclaimed
“Segregation Forever.” To think if Wallace had his way, Alabama would have never won the National
Championship this year.

It saddened me to see that Hood died. That sadness was further compounded when I heard that Ms. Mary
Martin, the oldest member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church had passed the other day. At one time, Martin had
been married to the late James Braxton, who had been active in the NAACP-Madison Branch in the 1940s-
1950s.
The icons of the civil rights movement — and many memorable figures in Madison’s Black History — are
fading into the history books.

In the article about the 100th anniversary of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Kirbie Mack talks about the close
connection between the Black Greek organizations and the Black church. And as one looks back at
Madison’s Black History, one can’t help, but notice that it is the church that has been the bedrock of
Madison’s Black community.

By my recollection — and I would welcome letter to the editor correcting my recollection or adding to it —
the first two large Black churches in Madison were St. Paul AME and Mt. Zion Baptist Church, both of
which have already celebrated their 100th anniversaries. The Black Mason group, Capitol Lodge #2, was
established around this time and it too, was closely aligned with the church.

It wasn’t until the early 1940s that Madison had a branch of the NAACP. Harry and Velma Hamilton led the
charge when the military proposed establishing a segregated USO out at Truax and the NAACP branch was
established to oppose the move. They were successful, by the way.

While African Americans had been discriminated against in terms of housing and employment since the
first African Americans lived in Madison in the 1860s — there are hundreds of Madison area property
deeds that still retain the unenforceable restrictive covenants — it wasn’t until the early 1960s that Rev.
James C. Wright and others led the charge to have Madison create the Equal Opportunity Commission,
which worked to end discrimination in housing and employment. The EOC existed as a separate Madison
department until it was absorbed by the newly established Department of Civil Rights in 2005.

It was also in 1968 that a group of African American and Euro-American activists in Madison established
the Madison Urban League to assist people in obtaining basic job skills and finding employment. It was
sometime in the early 1990s that the name was changed to Urban League of Greater Madison to reflect the
growth of the African American community in the surrounding suburbs.

And in the 1960s, Eugene Parks became the first elected African American alder in Madison’s history.
Gene was always a lightning rod civil rights in Madison for several decades. And he remained a
controversial figure. No matter how he was reviled — and sometimes humiliated in the press — folks in the
Black community supported him, oftentimes quietly lest they jeopardize their own position and employment.
Gene was known as a truth-to-power individual who paid the price.

It seems to me that the Black Greek organizations came to the fore during the 1970s. Many of them have
been around for well over 30 years. Sometimes formed initially by recent college graduates to provide
mutual support in professional endeavors, they blossomed as community service-oriented organizations
that have been responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships granted to African American
college students.

The 1980s witnessed the creation and growth of organizations like the Madison Metropolitan Links and
Women in Focus as vehicles for African American women to raise scholarship funds, promote the arts and
many other important community endeavors. They have also poured thousands of dollars into scholarships
for needy and deserving students.

As the movement grew for establishing the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday in the early 1980s, it spurred
local groups to lead the charge to celebrate the holiday. Led by Jonathan Overby, the state of Wisconsin
established the first official state King Holiday celebration. And the King Coalition was formed to plan and
host many of the local King Holiday celebrations. The Urban League’s Outstanding Young Person Awards,
the Free Community Dinner and City-County King Holiday Observance all got their start around this time.
Each of them is starting to reach their 30th anniversaries.

As the 1980s came to a close, Mona Adams Winston and Annie Weatherby founded Madison’s Juneteenth
Day celebration, which began at Penn Park and returned there some seven years ago.

While there had been attempts to establish a Black press in Madison several times before, the Wisconsin
Free Press was sustained in publishing for several years in the 1980s and the early 1990s witnessed the
establishment of UMOJA and The Madison Times, which are still published today.

And Madison witnessed several firsts in its history including Judge Paul Higginbotham becoming Madison’
s first municipal judge and Dane County’s first African American judge. He went on to become Wisconsin’s
first African American elected appellate court judge. Frances Huntley-Cooper became Wisconsin’s first and
still only African American elected mayor when she was elected in Fitchburg in 1991.

The editor in me says it is time to close. If you have recollections, e-mail them to me at
gramling@capitalcityhues.com and we will print them in our February 21st edition.