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Petition calls for statue of African American leader at State Capitol

“African Americans have provided leadership in our state for more than 150 years and it’s time to ensure the Capitol celebrates that leadership and display the diversity that our state has to offer,” Johnson writes in the letter.
Vel Phillips
Vel Phillips(Wisconsin Historical Society)
Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 3:03 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new petition is calling for a statue of Vel Phillips, the first African American woman to be elected to a statewide office in the nation, to be displayed outside Wisconsin’s State Capitol.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County President, Michael Johnson, outlined the proposal in a letter to State Senator Fred A. Risser, who sits on the State Capitol and Executive Residence Board that is responsible for maintaining such statues.

Johnson argues that a statue of Vel Phillips would be both historic and necessary as there are no prominent pieces of art reflecting contributions of African Americans in the Capitol Building.

“African Americans have provided leadership in our state for more than 150 years and it’s time to ensure the Capitol celebrates that leadership and display the diversity that our state has to offer,” Johnson writes in the letter.

As the state repairs two statues that were recently torn down, Johnson says he encourages lawmakers to “think about our current environment, the achievements of African Americans in Wisconsin and I can’t think of a better person to recommend than Mrs. Vel Phillips.”

Phillips was the first African American women to graduate from UW-Madison’s law school, first woman elected to Milwaukee’s City Council and first African American judge to be appointed in Wisconsin. Phillips also became the first African American woman in the nation to be elected to a statewide office after she became Wisconsin’s first African American Secretary of State.

“Mrs. Phillips did it all at a time when many African Americans were not allowed to exercise their civil rights. She was intelligent, courageous, bold, fearless and worked with legislators and community organizers to pass ordinances and legislation that would improve the lives of Wisconsinites during very difficult times,” Johnson writes.

Click here to see the online petition

Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County President, Michael Johnson
Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County President, Michael Johnson(Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County)

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