African American Experiences in Green Bay

During the 1960’s, Green Bay’s racial climate lacked the progressiveness that prevailed in other cities. The population was predominately white, showing the numbers of minorities to be growing very slowly. There wasn’t many culturally satisfying amenities and the addition of these amenities was not ideal. When leaving their southern homesteads for northern living, African Americans missed the joys of finding their home foods, churches and music.

It was a difficult transition for many and often it came with staring and the curiosity of others. Since not many African Americans had lived in Green Bay, the white residents of Green Bay had not had much exposure. The staring, as recalled by some African American residents, was everywhere they went. If they were in the park or simply having a meal it was as if they were an attraction.

Theodore Jamison moved to Green Bay, Wi in 1970. At the time, Jamison was working at St. Vincent Hospital and throughout his stay he only noticed another one or two African American families settling. Jamison describes his city as holding some prejudice, but not as volatile as perceived in other cities. Having an optimistic view of his situation and blamed partly on his high position, Jamison believed that he faced less discrimination than others, but came to realize that other African American families were treated differently. It’s a struggle within the city to assimilate vastly different families and for the community to view African American families as normal working families.

The football industry in Green Bay also made it more difficult for “normal” African American residents. It was common stereotype to believe that any African American a white resident would see living in the city would be considered a packer player or had to be related to one. It created an atmosphere that relied heavily on lack of knowledge and the categorization based on skin color. Although for the actual Packer player it molded a better living situation. They were recognized for their position and treated as such. People wanted to make them feel comfortable and feel a part of the community. Between the average African American resident and an African American Packer player there wasn’t much interaction causing some tensions.

Between July of 1967 and March of 1968, the NAACP marched in support of a federal fair housing bill Photo Credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Citation: Don Langenkamp, Blacks in Green Bay, Green Bay Press Gazette, September 30, 1979, 1-6.