Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers Makes Visit to Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum Alongside Black and Latino Male Achievement Students

Students Experiencing Their History

The Black and Latino Male Achievement (BLMA) is a program run through Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) that’s working to improve the outcomes of Black and Latino male students to succeed. Several MPS students involved with BLMA were invited to the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum alongside Governor Tony Evers to learn about Black history in Wisconsin and beyond.

Dominis Banks is one of the BLMA students who visited the museum. BLMA has Banks improve as a student and explore his options after high school. He’s aiming to become an orthodontist. 

“I would like to gain more knowledge about my people because today, we young people really don’t know a lot about our ancestors,” Banks said about the importance of the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and Wisconsin Historical Society Museum Founder Clayborn Benson with students in Milwaukee.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and Wisconsin Historical Society Museum Founder Clayborn Benson with students in Milwaukee. (Picture by Maria Peralta-Arellano/Carvd N Stone)

The Founder of the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum Clayborn Benson taught the BLMA students and Gov. Evers about topics like historical figures in Milwaukee who fought for equality within the city and the Black Cross Nurses. The Black Cross Nurses aided their communities during the tuberculosis crisis and promoted good health among those they served. This information can be found in a new exhibit at the museum.

The BLMA program helps students to develop a critical understanding of their cultural history. The museum tour gave students a chance to learn and ask questions about history they’re not typically exposed to in a traditional classroom. Johnal Davis is also a part of BLMA and he enjoyed his time at the museum.

“This is my first time here, they tell you a lot about history and are very informative about the Black community and Black people,” said Davis. “It brings togetherness. It’s a learning standpoint for me too because I’m learning about the Governor and him learning about Black people and Black heritage.”

Gov. Evers in the Community 

The Governor is a self-proclaimed history buff and found something new to pique his interest around every corner of the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum. The visit with MPS students marked Gov. Evers’ first time seeing the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum in person.

“In some respects, it’s kind of overwhelming there’s so much important stuff here…[but] it’s a history people like me have never seen and we have to make sure that everyone understands the history of Blacks in this state,” said Gov. Evers.

Evers came to the museum to commemorate Black History Month.

The Thoughts of Clayborn Benson 

The Black Historical Society was founded 36 years ago. Starting as a news cameraman in his early days, Benson found the need for a historical society. He acquired an old public library to transform it into the place of his dreams.

The museum’s doors opened in 1988. The organization is run by Benson, his daughter, and a crew of volunteers wanting to help operate the building. The collections inside are mostly donated by community members looking for a place to put their history on display. 

“We wanted students to experience it number one and experience history they wouldn’t actually get to see, but we also wanted them to meet the Governor,” said Benson. ”We also wanted the Governor to visit the museum and see what the museum is about.” 

The opportunity offered perspective on how all people and communities have been touched by Black History. The presence of Gov. Evers was impactful for Benson, an action that brings hope that the Governor will continue to fight for funding historical societies across the state. 

“It’s a good feeling. He seemed genuinely interested. He didn’t see it as a Black thing alone because it was not a Black thing. It’s about Milwaukee and Wisconsin and this nation’s history. It included Europeans. It included white people,” said Benson. “I didn’t have to say that [because] he knew it was about the history of the state and why it was important.”

For Benson, the mission is to spread knowledge and to share it with as many people as he can. The Wisconsin Historical Society Museum is hoping to expand in the future to give a greater look at Black history in the state. 

Maria Peralta-Arellano is a Milwaukee-native journalist who focuses on sharing news from her local communities. She dedicates her work to accessibility and producing bilingual coverage focused on arts, culture, and politics. She looks to explore her community through a journalistic and creative lens.

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