By Muriel Simms
Only a fraction of what is known about African American settlers in the Midwest and the vibrant and cohesive communities they formed has been preserved in traditional sources. The rest is contained in the hearts and minds of their descendants. Seeing a pressing need to preserve these experiences, lifelong Madison, WI resident Muriel Simms collected the stories of twenty-five African Americans from Madison whose families arrived, survived, and thrived here in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
While some struggled to find work, housing, and acceptance, they describe a supportive and enterprising community that formed churches, businesses, and social clubs-- and frequently came together in the face of adversity and conflict. A brief history of Madison's African American settlement sets the stage for the oral histories.