An Exhibit Celebrating Black Migrants is Coming to Wisconsin

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An exhibit dedicated to Black migrants will be unveiled in Wisconsin on October 30. The historical museum will celebrate the courageous African-Americans who uprooted from the South and moved to southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois during the Great Migration, according to the Racine Journal Times.

Walls covering the exhibit will be filled with the written names of local Black individuals who relocated to Wisconsin and Illinois during the Great Migration, which occurred from 1916-1970, according to US News. Among the Black people whose names will be immortalized on the wall, Pastor Tyrone Patrick’s grandfather Robert Patrick is one of the memorable ones. 

During his time Robert Patrick toiled on Mississippi cotton fields, working endlessly because he was paid by the pound. Patrick was so good at his job that he could “out-pick anybody,” however he wanted more for himself and his family—like many Black Americans today and Black people during the migration era, according to the Racine Journal Times

With 14 children at home by the 1960’s, Patrick decided to move his family from the South to the North so that he could pursue better opportunities. Patrick ended up settling in Waukegan, Illinois with his family in 1969, according to the Racine Journal Times. 

“He [Robert] had one of these huge wagons … and he loaded up the family and we didn’t have any furniture … he loaded up that wagon with his family, as many as he could fit in there, whoever else helped bring him up here,” Pastor Tyrone Patrick told the Racine Journal Times.

Pastor Tyrone Patrick’s family’s story mirrors the plight of the other 6 million African-Americans that relocated during 1916-1970. Pastor Bill Thompkins, founder and coordinator for the new exhibit, wants to fill the walls with the names of people like Robert Patrick so that we “remember, honor and celebrate” Black migrants, according to the Racine Journal Times. 

“We honor all of the greats — the Kings, the Tubmans — but these were migrant families who came courageously … to give their families another opportunity,” Thompkins told the Racine Journal Times.

Members of the Great Migration have been a great benefit to the Black community due to their involvement in the 1960’s Civil Rights movements. 

“I remember when I watched the Civil Rights Movement as a young black man, I was shocked by the treatment of the people, proud of the courage of the people who came … but their names are nowhere,” Thompkins told the Racine Journal Times.

The creation of this exhibit is a necessity, and will help preserve the legacy of the original great migrators.

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