Milwaukee woman’s peaceful protests helped end segregation

The City of Milwaukee will honor the late Juanita Adams with a street name for her activism, impact and legacy. The honor street name extends from W. Highland Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets near Highland Community School.

“When she sees injustice, she will make things happen,” Jacinta Adams Tatum said of her mother. “That’s how she lived her life. It’s about others.”

Juanita Adams was a founding member of the Milwaukee Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality. The civil rights activist worked to stop the unfair and racist treatment of black people in Milwaukee. She also took part in the March on Washington.

In December 1965, Adams made headlines when she protested the building of a school on 17th and Highland. She and protesters fought against racial segregation.

“What they were trying to do was build this school over there, and we were trying to break up with the building,” said Cleo Adams, her former husband.

During a demonstration, Adams used her body to block a cement truck used in the school’s construction. She was six months pregnant with her daughter, Jacinta Adams.

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“She just put her body over the cement pour to keep them from pouring the cement,” Jacinta Adams said.

“The police came by to take her away,” Cleo Adams said. “She put her hand on the chain they used to lock the gate and then they arrested her.”

Prior to her death in 2016, Juanita Adams spoke to the Wisconsin Black Historical Society about that pivotal day.

“You know you’re young. I was in my 20s. We had an attitude at the time that we were going to die for this cause,” said Juanita Adams. “We weren’t scared because we knew what we were doing. We felt like we would do whatever it takes.”

After retiring from the protest, Juanita Adams mentored young people and volunteered at the Sojourner Family Peace Center.

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The building where Juanita Adams protested in 1965 was built, and her great-granddaughter now goes to school there.

The city of Milwaukee has not told FOX6 News when the official street-naming ceremony is scheduled to take place.

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