Posts Tagged 'Sanctuary Cities'

Marquette History Students Collaborate with Middle-Schoolers to Research the Latino History of Milwaukee

By William Denzer

As the refrain goes, people study history in order to understand the present and plan for the future. In our current political climate, little is more heavily debated than national policies of immigration. This spring semester, I have been serving as a graduate assistant to Dr. Alison Efford for History 4120, an upper-level undergraduate course on immigration. What makes this course unique is not only the final project, in which the students create websites, but who they are collaborating with.

3About twice a month middle school students from St. Rafael Catholic School on the South side of Milwaukee came to Marquette’s campus to work with a group of students in HIST 4120. Each group was expected to use primary sources found in the greater Milwaukee or Madison-area and create a Weebly-based website showcasing their findings.

This course provided undergraduates the opportunity to navigate the historical narrative of Milwaukee immigrants while collaborating with the St. Rafael students, most of whom identified with the Latino community. The visiting St. Rafael students were able to participate in an undergraduate course and learn firsthand not only what a collegiate experience would be like, but how they could have similar experiences again in their near future at Marquette.

On April 26, nearly sixty students met to present their websites to other students and faculty members in Eisenberg Room of Sensenbrenner Hall. Descriptions of two of the projects follow.

Anna DeMeuse, Tim Sanchez, and Angelica Martinez’s group chose to examine the Sanctuary Parish movement in the Milwaukee Archdiocese in the 1980s. Their website (www.sanctuaryMKE.weebly.com) incorporated personal letters, meeting notes, newspaper articles, and transcribed interviews between migrant workers and parish council members. What the group generally discovered in their sources were tensions between members of the parish councils as they debated which policies and how much assistance to provide to those in need. This project gave each group the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with primary documents and garner insights into the process of creating a historical narrative.

1Another group, comprised of Perla Hernandez, Cassy Cassa, Luisa Era, and Edgar Vazquez Ramirez, focused on migrant workers’ camps in Wisconsin from the late twentieth century to the early twenty-first century (www.usmigrantcampos.weebly.com). Many migratory camps in Wisconsin housed agricultural workers, who often enured limited amenities. McKay Camp in Waterloo was a camp established for individuals and families who were working in the cherry industry. McKay Camp was closed in 2004 and the students believe it may be due to nitrate levels in the water supply. Many of the camps’ residents transitioned into the extensive dairy industry in Wisconsin. To construct their examination, the group incorporated documents from the Department of Workforce Development and the Migrant Labor Camp files, all housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Visiting the Wisconsin Historical Society provided insight into how archives are constructed and how professional historians utilize documents to recreate historical experiences, such as those within Milwaukee’s Latino community.

Such a unique and collaborative effort would not have been possible without the assistance of many talented faculty and staff. Special thanks to the research assistance from Taylor McNeir and Leatha Miles-Edmonson in the library, as well as 2016-2017 Mitchem Fellow Sergio González for his inspiration and guidance throughout the semester. Many thanks to the teachers Erin Mulligan, Michael Derrick, and Andrea Alvarez at St. Rafael. Marquette’s Center for Urban Reaching, Teaching, and Outreach, under the interim direction of Dr. James Marten, provided funding for transportation and the culminating celebration.

William Denzler has just finished his first year as an MA student at Marquette University. His main interests are in twentieth century American history, Allied Powers transnational history, Holocaust studies.


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