16th Street Viaduct; James E. Groppi Unity Bridge
This 4,000 ft viaduct was built in 1929 and renamed the James E. Groppi Unity Bridge in 1988 to commemorate the historic march that occurred here in 1967. At the tie of the march, Milwaukee was in the midst of a heated debate about open housing laws that symbolized the spread of the Civil Rights Movement to northern cities such as Milwaukee. In 1967 James E. Groppi led a march with organized by the NAACP Youth Council. The viaduct and bridge often called the "Mason-Dixon line" of Milwaukee, represented the racial residential divide between the white residents on the south side and the African Americans on the north side. By this time, Father John Groppi had become one of the most outspoken activists for ending residential segregation in a northern city. With a small number of other white activists, the NAACP Youth Council and many of the city's young black members began a march that crossed the bridge which served as the symbolic division of the city. With media coverage and counter-protesters, the black youth marched into the white neighborhood to protest housing discrimination and practices that led to the intentional division of the city into white and black neighborhoods.
Backstory and Context
"the shouts of the spectators and the marchers set up a din so loud that a person had to shout to be heard two feet away," "Several spectators held up a Confederate battle flag."1
16th Street Bridge (Viaduct). March on Milwaukee. . Accessed July 10, 2019. https://uwm.edu/marchonmilwaukee/keyterms/16th-street-bridge-viaduct/.
Manning, J.R.. 16th Street Viaduct. Bridgehunter. July 10, 2008. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://bridgehunter.com/wi/milwaukee/bh36855/.