Black History & Culture

Native American records show that African Americans were living in Milwaukee as early as the 1700s, and the city saw a surge of Black residents moving north for manufacturing jobs during the 1940s-1960s. The contributions that Black people have made to business, culture, and social justice in Milwaukee cannot be understated, and today the fight to create a better, more equitable Milwaukee continues. With cultural institutions to visit, Black-owned businesses to support and events to connect with the community at, use this page as your source for experiences that highlight Black history, culture, and impact on our city and world.

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people walking into the American Black Holocaust Museum

Cultural Institutions

Dive deeper into the historic and creative contributions of African Americans in Milwaukee and Wisconsin at these cultural institutions.

Explore Black History Museums

America's Black Holocaust Museum
America's Black Holocaust Museum stands as a testament to the resilience and strength of the Black community. Founded by Dr. James Cameron, the museum is dedicated to preserving the history of African Americans, particularly the stories of those who endured slavery and fought against injustice. At this museum, you  can explore powerful exhibits and engage in thought-provoking discussions about race, equality, and social justice. Step into history and immerse yourself in the deeply moving experience that awaits at America's Black Holocaust Museum. 

Wisconsin Black Historical Society & Museum
The Wisconsin Black Historical Society & Museum is another essential destination for those interested in Milwaukee's Black history. With engaging exhibits and educational programs, the museum provides insight into the experiences and achievements of Black Wisconsinites throughout history. From civil rights leaders to everyday heroes, the museum highlights the diverse contributions of Black individuals to the state's cultural fabric. If you have a passion for history and a thirst for knowledge, make sure a visit to the Wisconsin Black Historical Society & Museum is on your Milwaukee itinerary.


Celebrate Black Art

NO Studios
Founded by Milwaukee native and Academy Award winner John Ridley, this hub for film and creativity offers extensive virtual programming while we wait for in-person programming to resume.

Paramount Records Trail
Just a short drive from Milwaukee, the Village of Grafton is home to the Paramount Records Trail. This historic trail commemorates the legacy of Paramount Records, a pioneering record label that recorded some of the most influential blues and jazz artists of the early 20th century, many of whom were African American. As you walk the trail, you can learn about the musicians who shaped American music and celebrate their enduring impact.

Dr. James Cameron Pamphlet Collection
The Milwaukee Public Library's special collections include 38 self-published pamphlets by civil rights activist Dr. James Cameron (the founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum). These pamphlets can be viewed digitally.

Milwaukee Art Museum - Richard and Erna Flagg Collection of Haitian Art
The Milwaukee Art Museum houses the Richard and Erna Flagg Collection, one of the largest collections of Haitian art outside of Haiti. This extensive collection features vibrant paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media works that reflect the beauty, spirituality, and resilience of Haitian culture. Explore this collection for a journey through the artistic expressions of a people rich in history and tradition.

Dynamic Range: Photographs by Bill Tennessen
The Haggerty Museum of Art features diverse rotating exhibits year-round that celebrate art from Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and more. During 2024, the museum presents “Dynamic Range: Photographs by Bill Tennessen,” from January 19th to May 12th. This exhibition offers a unique perspective on Milwaukee’s Black communities and their contribution to the city’s identity. Discover this collection of photographs highlighting Milwaukee’s Black neighborhoods, people, and cultural landmarks from the 1980s to the early 2000s, or visit the Haggerty Museum of Art website for details on exhibits that showcase diverse art throughout the year.

Support Black-Owned Businesses

Milwaukee is home to a vibrant community of Black-owned businesses that contribute to the city's economic and cultural landscape. From restaurants and cafés to boutiques and art galleries, there are countless opportunities to support local Black entrepreneurs. As you explore Milwaukee's vibrant landscape of Black-owned businesses, remember that every purchase and interaction makes a meaningful difference in the lives of entrepreneurs and their communities. By prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in your consumer choices, you contribute to the collective effort to build a more equitable and prosperous future for all. 

It’s easy to celebrate Black History Month each year in February, but it's important to reflect on the past, honor the present, and contribute to equality, justice, and empowerment for everyone all year long. By exploring museums, embracing art, and supporting businesses, we can actively engage in the ongoing celebration and recognition of Black history and culture in Milwaukee and beyond.

Search for takeout food, shopping, and more on MKE Black, an online directory of Black businesses.

Support Black-Owned Businesses

Explore Where Unique Unites

Discover the many ways our different cultures, heritages and experiences, make Milwaukee such a Great Place on a Great Lake.