For this week for Black History Year, were are going to talk about Black history in Milwaukee. Today we’re going to focus on Father James Groppi, a civil rights activist who helped make peace in our city today.
James Groppi was born in the Bay View neighborhood of the south side Milwaukee. Groppi was Italian and was the 11th of 12 children in his family. He attended a small high school, but then went on to attend Bay View High school. After high school, he enrolled in seminary school and here he developed empathy for black people.
He then transferred to a parish where it was predominantly African American. He participated in the March on Washington in 1963 and Selma to Montgomery marches. He also was a helper to Martin Luther King in 1965 for the voting rights in the south. When he returned, he became an advisor of the NAACP. Groppi organized an all-Black male group called the Milwaukee Commandos which helped protect protestors and reduce any violence during the marches. He led fair housing marches and was arrested because of this, but his resilience led to the open-housing law.
During this time, Groppi’s activities weren’t accepted and he was forced to leave the priesthood. During the fall of 1978, he attended Virginia Theological Seminary but his lifelong activities caused the question whether it was possible for him to join Priesthood so he aborted it a year later. He died in 1985 due to brain cancer.
Although Groppi was not black, he still made an impact on the community. He showed the world that just because you were a different race doesn’t mean that you can’t make an impact on issues or just do the right thing. Groppi did what he felt was moral and didn’t try to fit in with everyone else. His legacy will live on forever.
Image By: Wisconsin Historical Society