Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project Fundraiser
If you appreciate the History Project's work, we hope you'll support the second fundraiser in our 29-year history!
We are a self-funded, independent, all-volunteer, non-profit team -- and we provide most services FREE to the community.
The Black Nite site is now the first official historical monument, marker or memorial in Wisconsin ever to be devoted to the history of LGBTQ people. The commemoration honors the leadership of Josie Carter, a black woman of trans experience and a local nightlife persona for over six decades.
"This is a moment of victory," said Michail Takach, curator of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project, who submitted the historic designation applications in May 2021. "But the victory doesn't belong to us. It belongs to a generation of people who never saw themselves as heroes, because the world treated them like criminals and deviants."
"They never expected to be remembered, much less celebrated. Through this historic landmark, we can make sure they will always be seen for the heroes they were."
The Black Nite Uprising of August 5, 1961 was the first time in Wisconsin history that gay, lesbian, and gender non-conforming people came together to take action against homophobic and transphobic violence as one united community. This event happened nearly eight years before the Stonewall Uprising, long bookmarked as the “start” of LGBTQ activism.
For over a decade, the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project has researched the social, cultural, and spiritual impact of the Black Nite Uprising, through interviews with primary sources, studying public records, and reviewing personal archive collections.
The Wisconsin Historical Society, Milwaukee Department of Public Works, and Department of City Development have approved the installation of a historic marker at the intersection of Plankinton and St. Paul. Committee leaders have met with developers of the upcoming Foxtown Landing complex, the first redevelopment of the Black Nite site in nearly 60 years. The group hopes to create a Riverwalk destination landmark that is accessible, inclusive, meaningful and educational. As site redevelopment continues, the historic marker will be incorporated into the design.
The History Project is currently targeting a May 2024 installation.
“We are working with partner organizations to legitimize the Black Nite's role in national LGBTQ history,” said Takach. “For decades, the Library of Congress considered the Cooper's Do-Nuts Riot of May 1959 as the first known LGBTQ resistance event in American history. However, researchers have debunked the story and a primary source recently recanted his testimony, even as the City of Los Angeles dedicated a historic marker to an event that may or may not have ever happened.”
Some now believe the Black Nite Uprising may have been the first documented resistance event in not just Wisconsin, but across the nation.
"Would it surprise me if Milwaukee was the birthplace of queer liberation in America? Not at all," said Project spokesperson Bjorn Nasett. "As a city of immigrants, a city of colorful cultures, and a city of diverse neighborhoods, Milwaukee has always been a city that defended its differences as much as it celebrated them."
"Throughout history, queer people have always been braver, bolder, and more visible in Milwaukee. We should all be proud to carry forward that tradition."
The History Project is currently accepting donations to facilitate historic marker installation. To make a tax-deductible gift, visit the Cream City Foundation website and direct your donation to the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project.
Note: County landmark status is honorific and educational. This process does not impose any restrictions on the property or its owners, nor does it incur any additional costs for the property, city or county.
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