Milwaukee’s African American Trailblazers (Week 1)

February 11, 2021

This month, in honor of Black History Month, I will be highlighting several African- American trailblazers.

These leaders, past and present, were and continue to be strong members of our community.

Their work is an example of the history that we turn to as inspiration during Black History Month.

This list this month is not exhaustive but represents the many inspiring trailblazers in Milwaukee and whose reach extends throughout the State of Wisconsin.

We salute all of the trailblazers over the years. Their service is so appreciated.

We begin with Congresswoman Gwendolyn Moore and the late Alderwoman Marlene Johnson-Odom.

Congresswoman Gwendolyn Moore

Congresswoman Gwen Moore was elected to represent Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District in 2004, making her the first African American elected to Congress from the State of Wisconsin. She is a member of the esteemed House Ways and Means Committee, which is the oldest committee in the United States Congress and has jurisdiction over the Social Security system, Medicare, the Foster Care System, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Unemployment Insurance, and all taxation, tariffs, and revenue-raising measures. She serves on the Oversight, Select Revenue Measures, and Worker and Family Support Subcommittees. A tireless advocate for women’s rights and civil rights, Congresswoman Moore led the fight against racial profiling, domestic abuse, and voting rights violations. Congresswoman Moore is a strong advocate for measures that focus on improving the economic and employment conditions in low-income communities, a champion for women, and she has been an ardent supporter of initiatives that put low-income students on the path to educational success.

Born in Racine, WI, in 1951, Congresswoman Moore was raised in Milwaukee. The eighth of nine children, Congresswoman Moore’s father was a union factory worker and her mother was a public-school teacher. Congresswoman Moore attended North Division High School in Milwaukee, where she served as Student Council President. After graduation, she started college at Marquette University as a single, expectant mother on welfare who could only complete her education with the help of TRIO. Congresswoman Moore earned a B.A. in Political Science from Marquette. She is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Alderwoman Marlene Johnson Odom
July 1, 1936 – January 9, 2017

In an article written by Mary Spizzua for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after Former Alderwoman Marlene Johnson-Odom’s death, she was described as a quiet woman, but she knew how to get things done. The longtime Milwaukee alderwoman led efforts on the Common Council to rename N. 3rd Street Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in honor of the civil rights leader. A Milwaukee native born in the central city, she was committed to issues like fair employment, civil rights and economic development. And she brought together developers and residents to improve the community. Johnson-Odom, who passed away on January 9, 2017 at age 80, represented the 6th Aldermanic District from 1980 to 2004. She served on the Milwaukee Common Council longer than any other woman in city history and was also the longest-serving African-American member of the council.

Let’s celebrate Congresswoman Gwendolyn Moore and Alderwoman Marlene Johnson-Odom, Milwaukee’s trailblazers during Black History Month.

Sources:
Gwen Moore House Biography. See entire Biography at: https://gwenmoore.house.gov/biography/
Marlene Johnson-Odom – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by Mary Spicuzza, published 1/19/17

Next Week: Continuation

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