The Honorable Vel Phillips

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Vel Phillips' impact on Milwaukee, on Wisconsin, and on the nation is significant. Ms. Phillips was the first woman and the first African American to be elected to the statewide constitutional office of Secretary of State. She became the first African American woman to graduate from the UW - Madison Law School in 1951 and appointed the first woman judge in Milwaukee and the first African American judge in Wisconsin in 1971.

For all of these historic accomplishments, the feat that is most astonishing to me is the tenacity and courage Ms. Phillips displayed as a Milwaukee alderwoman. She labored for six years for council action to
pass the city's first open-housing
ordinance, which was the seminal civil-rights issue in Milwaukee in the 1960's. Ms. Phillips waged a solitary, embattled struggle for the fair housing ordinance from 1960-1967 (each time being voted down 18-1!). In 1967, the council finally passed Phillips' Milwaukee fair housing ordinance, which became the impetus for the Federal Open Housing Law of 1968.

To read more about this Milwaukee heroine, check out The Selma of the North: the Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee by Patrick D. Jones, or take a look at our African American links on the MPL homepage.

Psst: Savvy east-siders know there's a Vel Phillips flavor of frozen custard. It's a blend of chocolate, vanilla and cheesecake and you can get it on Oakland Avenue.

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This page contains a single entry by published on February 11, 2010 8:19 AM.

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