By Stuart Stotts
This addition to the Badger Biographies series for young readers tells the story of Father James Groppi, a Catholic priest who stood up for civil rights in the 1960s and 1970s. Growing up on the south side of Milwaukee, James learned early on to respect people from other races and ethnic groups. As the son of Italian immigrants, he knew what it felt like to be treated poorly just because of who you are.
While studying to become a priest, James saw the discrimination African Americans faced. It made him angry, and he vowed to do whatever he could to fight racism. On trips to the South and to Washington, DC, Father Groppi marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement. But he knew there was work to be done in his own city. In Milwaukee, he teamed up with the NAACP and other organizations, protesting discrimination and segregation wherever they saw it. It wasn't always easy, and Father Groppi and the other civil rights workers faced great challenges. But today Milwaukee is a more equal and just place because of their efforts.
This important story of a turbulent time in Wisconsin history sheds light on the civil rights movement and its place in the North. It wasn't just in Selma and Birmingham that African Americans had to overcome racism and segregation. Father Groppi's life shows how individuals can come together to make lasting change.