Milwaukee Urban League Records, 1919-1979

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Milwaukee Urban League have been arranged into Microfilm, Photographs, Tape Recordings, and Films and Filmstrips plus eighteen series of paper records, mainly corresponding to the operational departments of the League: Administrative Files, Administrative Subject Files, Committee Files, Business Development Organization, Citizenship Education Department, Community Organization Department, Economic Development Administration, Employment Development and Guidance Department, Department of Family Life, Health and Welfare Department, Department of Human Resources Development, Department of Industrial Relations, Labor Education Advancement Program (LEAP), Manpower Department, Model Cities Project, On-the-Job Training Project, Department of Research, and National Urban League Records. The majority of the records date from the early 1960s-1970s, with earlier records mainly composed of microfilmed minutes of board of directors meetings, microfilmed scrapbooks of news clippings, and partial files of two MUL departments, Community Organization and Industrial Relations. Throughout the collection many items bear handwritten annotations of Wesley Scott, who apparently reviewed all incoming mail before determining its disposition. Some of the records exhibit smoke, water and subsequent discoloration resulting from a 1974 fire in the Urban League building.

Several of the series contain overlapping or similar materials, reflecting the cooperation and work-sharing of League departments, which is particularly evident as federal grant money became readily available during the late 1960s and 1970s and as new programs were initiated by the League. Thus, it is suggested that the researcher consult both the records of the MUL administration and of closely-related departments, it should be noted that the names of some Urban League departments changed over the years, with their functions distributed to one or more successors. For example, the Community Organization Department became the Department of Family Life, with some of its work taken over by the Health and Welfare Department, while the functions performed by the Department of Industrial Relations were later variously divided among other department and projects.

The two largest series in the collection are the ADMINISTRATIVE FILES and the ADMINISTRATIVE SUBJECT FILES, which consist of the records of the executive director, the executive committee, and the board of directors. Important files include those of the annual business meetings, annual meetings and dinners, annual reports, descriptions of Milwaukee Urban League purpose and functions, membership files, newsletters, and publicity and public relations. There is a complete run on microfilm of minutes of the board of directors, supplemented by manuscript additions and minutes of the executive committee. Correspondence of executive director Wesley L. Scott, who held that position from 1960 to 1981, is extensive and also includes memoranda to staff members. There are very few records of any type from the period preceding Scott's tenure; most of the items dating from 1928 to 1960, when William V. Kelley was executive director, consist of news clippings and other papers regarding awards and honors given him. Apparently Kelley took with him most of the Urban League's records at the time of his retirement; these records may no longer exist (for Kelley is now dead and neither his widow nor children have the records).

Administrative financial records are quite numerous, and include budgets, with supporting documents, worksheets, estimates, and records of expenditures, 1961-1978; some monthly financial reports, and fragmentary receipts. The budget files also contain League-created prospectuses, narrative statements, statistics, expenditure analyses, minutes of meetings, and other materials submitted to United Community Services of Greater Milwaukee in justification of the Urban League's budget requests. United Community Services provided a substantial portion of the League's funding, and the files also include UCS documents indicating what portion of the budget request was granted. Monthly reports of the various Urban League departments date from 1950 to 1959 and 1974 to 1976, and are mostly in draft form.

Within the ADMINISTRATIVE SUBJECT FILES are correspondence, minutes and agenda, financial records, notes, and printed items from many Milwaukee and Wisconsin organizations, committees, service and religious groups and clubs, to which Milwaukee Urban League or executive director Scott belonged or maintained a particular interest. Some of these grouped or programs were similar in nature or scope of operations and were sponsored or financially assisted by the Urban League. Also included are folders of reference and general material pertaining to Milwaukee, minority opportunities, civil rights, and political subjects collected by the executive director and the League staff.

COMMITTEE FILES consist of minutes, agenda, attendance records, membership lists, correspondence, and other papers of Milwaukee Urban League committees, many of which were closely related to Urban League departments. Most of these files are small in size and date only from 1960 to 1970 or 1971.

The fourteen series pertaining to Milwaukee Urban League departments illustrate the different projects undertaken within the League's major program areas of job training and guidance, job development, community welfare, and family life. Within each series may be found similar types of records, including correspondence and memoranda of the department director and staff, government contracts and financial records, periodic reports of the progress of projects and activities of the staff, and records of special work of each department. Some series also include reference material collected to assist in the work.

Early Milwaukee Urban League activities in the field of job training and guidance were carried on by its DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, which conducted student scholarship contests and programs, stay-in-school campaigns, and a vocational guidance service. The department's management advisory committee sponsored annual equal opportunity days in conjunction with local businesses, and also maintained job description and placement records and similar files in its Milwaukee Skills Bank. During the 1960s and early 1970s the functions of the Industrial Relations department were expanded to include development of jobs and business opportunities for minority clients, and the work was thus divided among several new departments. These were the BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION, which gave financial and legal assistance to individual clients and small businesses; the ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION's job training project; the EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT AND GUIDANCE DEPARTMENT; the LABOR EDUCATION ADVANCEMENT PROGRAM, a federally-funded program to create jobs, and to tutor and train apprentices and workers to fill them; the MANPOWER DEPARTMENT, also federally-funded and associated with the Milwaukee Area Technical College; the MODEL CITIES PROJECT, which among other programs provided work Training and Technical Assistance to Small Business; and the ON-THE-JOB TRAINING PROJECT, funded by the federal Department of Labor and the Model Cities Agency to train and place workers. After 1971, however, the Urban League once again concentrated its manpower resources on job training and work experience programs.

The Urban League's commitment to family and community programs resulted in the establishment of the COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION DEPARTMENT, which was active during the 1950s. Under department head Lucinda Gordon, neighborhood improvement programs, and youth service and recreation projects were conducted, and the League initiated local block clubs in black neighborhoods to improve homes and their surroundings and to fight crime. Many of the department's functions were later incorporated into the HEALTH AND WELFARE DEPARTMENT, with other programs assigned to the DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY LIFE, which also operated drug abuse and education programs and the Lady Pits Family Living Service to aid pregnant teenagers. The Health and Welfare department also conducted community awareness programs concerning equal job and housing opportunities, food stamps, and home repair; surveyed local housing conditions and needs, and promoted voter registration and education. Voter education was also the focus of the CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION DEPARTMENT. A few files are also present from the DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT, which was organized during the mid-1970s to provide health and welfare services.

To assist in its many projects Milwaukee Urban League staff collected and created print and near-print material on a variety of subjects. These files have been arranged alphabetically by title with the DEPARTMENT OF RESEARCH series. In addition to departmental correspondence and memos, mailing lists, and reports of activities, the files include questionnaires from a 1968 survey of Milwaukee black professionals, and several folders of research materials, a final report, and other data from the Urban League investigation of the summer 1967 riot in Milwaukee. Several of the near-print reports date from the early 1950s. These subject files when used in conjunction with the Administrative Subject Files, provide information about many Milwaukee organizations and such topics as school segregation and desegregation efforts, housing and local neighborhood grouped, discrimination in employment, heath care, and crime and law enforcement.

The Milwaukee Urban League's involvement with the NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE is illustrated in the final series of the collection. Files of conference and project records, and of the Council of Executive Directors, in particular, show the interaction between the national and affiliate organizations. Correspondence with the national office has been filed with the correspondence of the Milwaukee Urban League executive director. In addition to printed memoranda, press releases, manuals, directories, and other national office mailings, there are copies of Milwaukee Urban League reports and questionnaires sent to the national office, and Wesley Scott's papers and notes from conferences and meetings of the Council of Executive Directors.

On microfilm are a lengthy run of minutes of board of directors meetings, with scattered minutes from annual business meetings; news clippings, and photographs illustrating Urban League-sponsored community events, 1957-1958. Five tapes record Vincent Toran and Bennett Johnson discussing the LEAP program and interviewing job applicants, and Opinion Institute speeches of four civil rights leaders and professionals. Received with the collection were a motion picture, Action Not Anger (1964), which was aired on Milwaukee television, and two filmstrips with accompanying disc recordings entitled “Adventures in Negro History,” (1963) and “Charm by Choice.”