Empowering Communities • Changing Lives

History of the MUL


Since its' founding in 1910, the National Urban League, headquartered in New York City, spearheaded our nonprofit, nonpartisan, community-based movement and played a pivotal role in the 20th century freedom movement. The Urban League grew out of the black migrations, a spontaneous grassroots movement for freedom and opportunity, and is the nation's oldest and largest community based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream.

At the heart of the Urban League movement are the professionally staffed affiliates in over 100 cities in 34 states and the District of Columbia. The Milwaukee Urban League (MUL) has a distinguished history. Established in 1919 as an affiliate of the National Urban League (NUL), our agency is one of numerous NUL affiliates established during the early 20th century, when millions of African Americans migrated northward from southern states in search of greater opportunities and a better way of life. To assist African Americans in their transition to urban life and employment, the Milwaukee Urban League originally taught basic skills such as social courtesies, proper dress and grooming, sanitation, health, and homemaking. To aid in the development of healthy lifestyles, it also sponsored a community center for holiday gatherings, youth recreation and crafts, boxing skills development, and by the 1920's, a medical clinic. Our mission today follows this same tradition. We offer numerous programs that are designed to help African Americans, and other people of color, achieve civil rights, and social and economic equality so they can become more self-reliant members of society.

Historical Overview

  • Milwaukee Urban League's programs operated out of the Abraham Lincoln House at 904 W. Vine Street.
  • Community social center was developed.

  • Social Service thrust.
  • Black community conditions deteriorated during post-war depression between 1923 and 1928.
  • Crisis brought new leadership; new office and medical clinic was established at 631 W. Vliet Street.
  • 1926 study defined poor housing as high priority need.

  • Industrial Relations Project established to improve job opportunities and working conditions through relationships with the business establishments.

  • Received Milwaukee Journal "Beautification Award" for neighborhood clean-ups.

  • Intensified influence on public and private policies.
  • Instrumental in ending legalized racial discrimination in housing.
  • 1st Equal Opportunity Day fundraising event held in 1959.

  • Enhanced research and advocacy capabilities:
    • 1968 study: 'Who riots and Why?'
  • Instrumental in creating Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council.
  • New MUL departments and programs set up:
    • Manpower department
    • Community Development department
    • Business Development Center
    • Labor Education Advancement program
    • Secretarial training program (for long-term AFDC recipients)

  • Published "The State of Black Powerlessness in Milwaukee".

  • Published "Operation Model Affiliate Design": a comprehensive revision of MUL programs to meet community needs.
  • 1981-1982 MUL remodels and moves into building at 2800 W. Wright Street.
  • Programs expanded and included: an apprentice program, minority business development program, teen parenting prevention initiatives, on-the- job placement and training as well as established a research department.
  • New programs included: Men who Cook, after school homework assistance program, male adolescent responsibility project, older workers program and job ride program.
  • The 1st Back-to-School and Resource Fair was held in 1982.
  • MPS/MUL form a cooperative venture in 1984 for students to re-enter a regular or alternative school program to successfully complete their high school education or G.E.D. certification.
  • The 1st Black and White Ball was held in 1986, replacing the traditional annual dinner. As the Milwaukee Urban League's main fundraising event. four specific objectives were identified that would be the basis of each successive Ball:
    • to cultivate 'Partners for Progress'
    • to stimulate financial support of the League's programs
    • to infuse new volunteers
    • to "build bridges" of understanding among the races.
  • Published "A Racial Gap Study" on mortgage lending and segregation in 1987.

  • Established and began implementation of Strategic Plan.
  • Established the Young Professionals Group.
  • Re-established the MUL Guild.
  • Formalized NULITIES chapter.
  • Established Digital Campus.
  • Expanded the Minority Apprenticeship program.
  • Instituted the "Spirit of Diversity" award.
  • Successfully competed for 'Campaign for African American Achievement'.
  • First Annual Education Summit.
  • Established local academic honor society, the Achiever's Society.
  • Collaborated on alternatives to incarceration program and the Brighter Futures initiatives.
  • Continued successful implementation of the seniors program, family wellness, and MCIP.

2000 - 2006
  • Participated in the NUL's "Read and Rise" program - books were disbursed at African World Festival and Juneteenth Day.
  • Released the "State of Black Milwaukee" and the "State of Black Milwaukee Through the Eyes of Children" in 2000.
  • Franchise Initiative designed to help increase the number of businesses owned by African Americans and other minorities.
  • Opened the Academy of Business and Economics (MULABE) in 2001, with 580 students; as the largest elementary school in Milwaukee with major focus on business and economics in elementary grades.
  • Worked with the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and a diverse group of community organizations, in 2002, to speak out against the message of hatred and bigotry that the World Church of the Creater, the American Nazi Party, and Ku Klux Klan promoted during their September rally in Milwaukee.
  • Held the annual Education Summit in 2002 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  • Became one of five community-based organizations involved with the Milwaukee Apprenticeship Recruitment Project (MARP).
  • MATH PLUS® implemented in 2003 as a complementary after school math literacy program for middle school students, conceived and designed by MUL.
  • Expanded our advocacy to ensure equality, safety, and responsible community relations by pursuing a grant with the State Office of Justice Assistance to reduce gang activity and juvenile crime.
  • Became the fiscal agent for the Safe Alternatives for Youth program, established by Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, which funds safe, positive activities for youth during the summer months.
  • MUL President and CEO agreed to serve as a member of the Commission on Police Community Relations with the City of Milwaukee Police Department and other community agencies.
  • Sold our headquarters at 2800 W. Wright Street in 2005 and entered into partnership with Gorman and Company to convert the building to the Dr. Wesley L. Scott Senior Living Community, to honor the memory of Dr. Scott who served as President & CEO of MUL from 1959 to 1981.
  • Purchased and moved into our new headquarters at 435 W. North Avenue, in the historic Bronzeville area. The area is designated as the African American Cultural and Entertainment District by the City of Milwaukee.
  • MUL Guild President, Michelle Crockett, elected as President of the National Countil of Urban League Guilds in 2005.
  • MUL selected as one of five pilot cities by the NUL to participate in the New Markets Tax Credits Transaction Fee program. The program brought new revenue to Milwaukee for business expansion and through transaction fees, helped local Urban Leagues & the NUL generate money to support their programs.
  • MUL became a local partner with the Miller Brewing Company's "Miller Urban Entrepreneur Series" program, a national business plan competition to assist entrepreneures start or expand their businesses.
  • Partnered with the Milwaukee Area Technical College and launched the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) program in-house at MUL.
  • MUL President & CEO selected to co-chair the Governor's Business Opportunity Advisory Commission whose purpose ws to review the state's procurement program and make recommendations on meeting the statutory five percent purchasing goal with certified MBE's.
  • MUL President & CEO selected by Mayor to participate on the Anti-poverty Advisory Committee which was established with the goals of bringing more jobs to the city, lowering crime and improving education, all without raising taxes.

    2007 - 2011
  • MUL and partner, Gorman & Co., receives the MANDI State Farm Insurance "Building Blocks" award "Large Projects" and received the Wisconsin Commercial Real Estate Women's "Heart of the Community" award, both for the development of MUL's former headquarters into the Dr. Wesley L. Scott Senior Living Community.
  • MUL selected as one of 25 NUL affiliate cities to host the Walgreens Wellness Bus Tour.
  • National Council of Urban League Guilds President, Michelle Crockett, re-elected at National and MUL Guild President Cynthia Stokes-Murray elected as National Guild Treasurer.
  • Hosted "No Child Left Behind - Education as a Civil Right in the African American Community" forum.
  • MUL selected by the Mayor to be a part of the Mosaic Partnership Inaugural Advisory Committee which was implemented to improve race relations and strengthen ethnic relationships in Milwaukee.
  • MUL offers MS Word and Excel certification courses as well as beginning & intermediate keyboarding in its new AT&T sponsored Computer and Technology Lab.
  • MUL hosts driver's license permit & reinstatement classes to assist participants in receiving or reinstating their driver's licenses.
  • MUL and development partner, Gorman & Co., receives the Mayor's "Urban Design" award for the Dr. Wesley L. Scott Senior Living Community.
  • MUL operates the Jobs for America's Graduates program (JAG), thanks to a grant from the Milwaukee Area Workforce Invest Board, designed to assist young adults comple requirements for attaining their GED, secure an entry-level job and/or pursue a post-secondary education. The JAG program was held at 2 high school sites and MUL.
  • MUL Guild takes second place for its 2007 community service project at the Regional Conference in Las Vegas.
  • MUL awarded the Project Ready grant from the National Urban League in 2009. Project Ready was held at Wisconsin Lutheran College and administered by MUL's Education & Training Staff.
  • MUL celebrated our 50th Annual Equal Opportunity Day in 2009.
  • MUL Young Professional Sean Lowe honored as the Central Region's Outstanding Member of the Year at the 2009 NUL Annual Conference.
  • MUL Workforce Development Department hosted it's first "Employers Appreciation Breakfast" for those businesses who assisted our EAP in job placement & training activities.
  • MUL hosted a White House Community Jobs Forum, requested by President Obama, to provide feedback on ideas for job creation and economic improvement.
  • MUL Young Professionals receive the Central Region Chapter of the Year award and MULYP Vice President Sabrina Jackson is named Central Region Member of Year at the 2010 NUL Centennial Conference.
  • MUL held it's "Silver Anniversary" of the Black & White Ball.
  • MUL awarded a grant from NUL in 2011 to implement a "Digital Connectors" program designed to help students expand the use of broadband digital technology.
  • MUL hosted Israeli Diplomat, Deputy Consul General Shahar Arieli, to discuss the "New Middle East" and what its evolving role means for US/Israeli relations.
  • MUL becomes a member of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation's "Milwaukee Succeeds Educational Initiative" Executive Committee along with the United Way of Greater Milwaukee, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Greater Milwaukee Committee. The broad-based community partnership of parents, educators and the faith community are joined together to ensure educational success for all children; whether attending public, charter or choice schools.

2012 - 2013
  • MUL Added 2 new high schools to our Jobs for America's Graduated program.
  • Partnered with United Migrant Opportunities Service (UMOS), Northcott Neighborhood House and Silver Spring Neighborhood Center in a Transitional Jobs Program hat helps individuals, primarily young men who have been unable to find a job, get back into the workforce.
  • Assisted Victory Personnel Services in identifying and preparing participants for jobs at the Harley-Davidson manufacturing plant.
  • Partnered with the Small Business Administration's Wisconsin District and SCORE, for SCORE counselors to conduct one-on-one and small group sessions with entrepreneurs at MUL.
  • In 2013, MUL President & CEO and Milwaukee Branch NAACP President lead Milwaukee's March to commemorate the historic 1963 March on Washington.
  • In partnership with the Milwaukee Public Schools College Access Center and the Fresh Coast Basketball Classic, MUL participated in a college fair at the Wisconsin Center.
  • In partnership with the City of Milwaukee Health Department, United Way and several other organizations, MUL participated in a Back-to-School Health and Resource Fair.
  • MUL hosted a Bulgarian delegation, as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program of the U.S. Department of State, to discuss MUL's work to improve the quality of life in our community.
  • MUL hosted the first "VISION 2050" workshop, in partnership with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) where participants gave input for developing land use and transportation plans for the region between 2013 and 2050.
  • MUL Guild hosts the "Slave Ship to Pirate Ship" exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum where participants learned and discussed how many black slaves became pirates.
  • MUL Guild Member and National Guild Treasurer, Cynthia Stokes-Murray, becomes the second Guilder from Milwaukee to be elected President of the National Council of Urban League Guilds.
  • MUL Young Professionals receive the National Urban League "Be a Better Bud" grant award. This NUL YP community service competition focuses on education & economic empowerment.

    The Milwaukee Urban League has been a catalyst for social justice and change for over 95 years, helping minorities seize opportunities that promote quality of life. A dedicated team of staff, volunteers, sponsors, and the Board open doors to information, skill development, and other support, to help African-Americans and other minorities achieve their full potential.

    Through our education, employment and economic development programs, our organization continues to pursue its mission "to enable African Americans, and other persons of color, who are economically distressed to become more self-reliant to improve the quality of their lives, which has put them at the forefront of a myriad of changes in employment, education, and civil rights. We will continue our advocacy to increase social and economic opportunity.

    Past Presidents and CEO's

  • 1919-21 Ambrose Nutt
    1921-28 J. Harvey Kerns
    1928-59 William V. Kelley
    1959-81 Wesley L. Scott
    1981-85 Bernard W. Benn
    1985-91 Jacqueline J. Patterson
    1991-94 Walter C. Brame
    1994-02 Kenneth F. Little
    2002-16 Ralph E. Hollmon
    2017-Present Dr. Eve M. Hall


    Copyright © The Milwaukee Urban League 2003 - 2017. All Rights Reserved.