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.
- Milwaukee Urban League's programs operated out of the Abraham Lincoln House at 904 W. Vine Street. Community social center was developed.
- Community social center was developed.
- Social Service thrust.
- World War I brought economic expansion.
- 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.
- Exceptional rent increases, landlord/tenant disputes, hazardous conditions.
- Tremendous upsurge in black unemployment.
- 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.
Enhanced research and advocacy capabilities:
- 1968 study: 'Who riots and Why?'
- 1967 housing marches resulted in Wisconsin's Open Housing Law.
- 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)
- Publication "The State of Black Powerlessness in Milwaukee.
- Publication 'Operation Model Affiliate Design', a comprehensive revision of MUL programs to meet community needs was published.
- 1981-1982 MUL remodels and moves into building at 2800 W. Wright.
- Programs expanded and included: an apprentice program, minority business development program, teen parenting prevention initiatives, on the job placement and training, and a research department was established.
- New programs included: Men who Cook, after school homework assistance program, male adolescent responsibility project, older workers program, and job ride program.
The first Black and White Ball was held in 1986, replacing the traditional annual dinner, the Milwaukee Urban League's main fundraising event. MUL identified four specific objectives that have been 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.
- 1987 Published "A Racial Gap Study" on mortgage lending and segregation.
- Established and began implementation of Strategic Plan.
- Established the Young Professionals Group.
- Re-established the MUL Guild.
- Formalized NULITIES chapter.
- Expanded Car Seat program.
- Established Digital Campus.
- Expanded the Minority Apprenticeship program.
- Expanded Equal Opportunity Day and Health Fair.
- 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 - 2002 honored 1,303 students at the 'Doing the Right Thing' in academics, community service, sports, and arts.
- 2000 - 2002 inducted 339 students into the 'National Achiever's Society'.
- Two out of 20 youth applicants received NUL scholarships.
- Participated in the NUL's "Read and Rise" program - 750 books were disbursed at African World Festival, and 700 books were handed out at Juneteenth Day.
- Franchise Initiative designed to help increase the number of businesses owned by African Americans and other minorities by helping entrepreneurs acquire franchise deals, which in turn will generate wealth and increase the number of jobs in the community.
- Served more than 1,300 individuals helping them prepare for and retain family supporting jobs in general employment and construction and/or construction related trades.
- More than 1,094 students helped in preparing for their apprenticeship exam and interview preparation.
- 2001 opened the Academy of Business and Economics (MULABE), with 580 students; largest elementary school in Milwaukee and only known school with major focus on business and economics in elementary grades.
- 2000 - Released "State of Black Milwaukee" and the "State of Black Milwaukee Through the Eyes of Children".
- In 2002, worked in conjunction with African American elected officials, took leadership role in coordinating the efforts of several community organizations who worked to improve conditions in the Midtown Neighborhood where Charles Young, Jr. was tragically beaten to death.
- 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 where over 1,000 attended and Hugh Price, National Urban League President, was one of the keynote speakers.
- MATH PLUS implemented in 2003 - a complementary after school math literacy program for middle school students, conceived and designed by MUL.
- In 2003, 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.
- 2004 - MUL President and CEO agreed to serve as a member of the Commission on Police Community Relations with the City of Milwaukee's new police chief.
- 2004 hosted the 45th Equal Opportunity Day.
The Milwaukee Urban League has been a catalyst for social justice and change for over 85 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.
Our focus in early 2006 will be the move into our new headquarters, located at 435 W. North Ave., in the Bronzeville area. The organization continues to pursue its mission "to enable African Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity and power, and civil rights", which has put them at the forefront of a myriad of changes in employment, education, and civil rights. We will also continue our advocacy to increase social and economic opportunity as well as continue our research to inform the community of issues critical to improving the quality of life for all.
Past Presidents and CEO's
|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-Present||Ralph E. Hollmon