One of the unique features of Voyageur is that its authors come from the ranks of both history professionals (museum curators, archivists, and professors) and amateur historians. I use the word amateur not in the spirit of an expert/amateur hierarchy but rather with reference to the word's French and Latin roots--meaning "to love." Regardless of the author, our articles are peer reviewed by a combination of academic and amateur scholars on our editorial committee. The magazine's existence thus depends on the enthusiastic collaboration of professional and amateur historians, the latter of whom often carry a much deeper knowledge of local people, places, and events--and of local significance--than the academics, who are seldom trained in regional history. All of us are brought together by our common love of the history of northeast Wisconsin.
I am excited to share this special issue, focused on African American history in our region, to mark thirty-five years of Voyageur magazine. People of African descent first arrived in the region we now call Wisconsin in the first half of the eighteenth century as slaves of French colonists. As Christy Clark-Pujara discusses in her interview, notwithstanding the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery, white Americans brought some enslaved people to this region during the territorial era. Moreover, as Anna-Lisa Cox has documented, a number of free African Americans (and even some Afro-Caribbeans) migrated to the state in the decades before the Civil War. As Erika Janik notes in A Short History of Wisconsin (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2010), the population of African Americans remained relatively small in the early twentieth century; fewer than 3,000 African Americans lived in Wisconsin in 1910, and that number had only grown to about 7,000 in 1930. The 1940s and 1950s, however, saw a six-fold increase. By 1960, the African American population of Wisconsin reached nearly 75,000.
For all of its accomplishments, Voyageur has mostly neglected African American history. The magazine's name evokes the European colonization of North America, and the reality is that the overwhelming majority of the magazine's authors, reflecting the demographics of the region, have been white. The magazine has usually focused on Euro-American perspectives on the region's past. As the editorial board looks ahead, we are committed to providing a forum for voices and perspectives not previously heard here, creating a more comprehensive historical record of the region and its residents. African Americans in our region carry knowledge of much of this history--especially of the post-World War II period. This issue of the magazine, far from fully covering African American history in northeast Wisconsin, only scratches the surface, and we hope that it inspires additional research and writing on this important topic.
Every article herein was solicited for this issue, and I am grateful to each of the authors for responding to the call. Along the way, I also had helpful conversations with Peter Kellogg, Jaclyn Schultz, and Steve Taylor. Scott Cross at the Oshkosh Public Museum, Dan Moore at UW-Green Bay, and Alison Newman at the UW-Milwaukee Archives helped us obtain important photographs for the issue. Toni Damkoehler once again did excellent work as the art director for the issue, as did her wonderful group of design arts students. I'd like to recognize Kady Jordan and Megan Nighbor, who have helped design three issues, for their distinguished service to the magazine. The editorial interns helped tremendously with final editing, locating photographs, and writing captions. I also thank Interim Associate Editor Vince Lowery, who contributed in many ways; his attentive and thoughtful editing helped polish the issue.
p.s.--Two of the articles in this issue have additional information available here.
Voyageur is a nonprofit magazine about the history of a 26-county area of greater Northeast Wisconsin. It's published twice a year, each June and December. Publication frequency is Summer/Fall and Winter/Spring. Each 64-page edition highlights historic people, places and events from the region's past. Voyageur has a readership of 10,000. It's distributed to homes, schools, libraries, businesses and other locations throughout Wisconsin, in nearly all fifty states and overseas. Voyageur has published two issues a year since its beginning in 1984. The magazine is published by the Brown County Historical Society in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.