Dr. Richard Harris, author of the book “Growing Up Black In South Madison” has requested that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin conduct an investigation into the possibility that blacks living in the Triangle area were cheated by the Madison Redevelopment Authority (MRA) of the City of Madison during the Triangle Urban Renewal Project in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Dr. Harris says that because of his book, he has received a strong reaction from the black community as to how blacks were treated during this urban renewal project.
Dr. Harris also expressed concern over discrimination against blacks in employment areas. He has suggested that the mayor ask private businesses and corporations to develop a plan in which there would be an emphasis on employing more blacks in jobs in Madison. Those businesses participated in the black hiring plan would be honored at a special ceremony at the City-County building, one year after the plan was initiated.
April 4, 2013
Mayor Paul Soglin
City of Madison, WI
City County Building
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Dear Mayor Soglin:
I am writing requesting that you consider two initiatives/plans regarding the present status of Blacks in Madison, Wisconsin. I am writing to you because of the strong reactions to the book I authored called, “Growing Up Black In South Madison (Economic Disenfranchisement of Black Madison).” In my book I describe, since I can remember from 1945 to the present (that’s six decades), how Black people have been discriminated against, especially in the employment and economic areas. To enhance my point we can look at how few Blacks are presently employed in the highway and building construction trades. They also are being discriminated in the faculty employment areas by the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The MMSD as of today has only 2 percent of its teachers who are Black and at the UW-Madison only 2 percent of its professors are Black. Blacks are also under utilized in the science and technology areas and other highly skilled professional areas. We’ve also pointed out that the four local TV stations have no Black TV anchors at its evening TV newsprograms. These are just a few areas of employment underutilization of Blacks in our community.
The other area of concern is the terrible treatment of Blacks in the late 1950s and early 60s, by the City of Madison (Madison Redevelopment Authority-MRA), in an Urban Renewal project called the Triangle Project. In my book, I discuss the plight of Black people and how there may have been aspects of Blacks as well as other residents being cheated by the MRA. It has also been alleged that some MRA staff were involved in criminal activities that may have led to some Blacks being offered less money for their homes (if they were homeowners) or other property (if they were renters).
To rectify the past mistreatment of Black people in the past eight decades, I am proposing that you consider my plan, called the HARRIS PLAN. In this way there will be no confusion.
1)I am requesting that you, in a public statement, request that Madison businesses and corporations enact a Black Employment Initiative, whereby Blacks will be given an equal opportunity to become employed in the following areas: Administrative, Professional-Technical, Administrative and General Maintenance. Those employers who participate in the plan will be honored in your office after a year of the plans implementation.
2) I am also recommending that (a) the City of Madison, Wisconsin publicly acknowledge that some Blacks and other residents were not given full and equal treatment or compensation for their property by the MRA in the Triangle Project in the 1950s and 60s; (b) Black residents of the Triangle and their descendents should be given some form of financial reparation, based on the differences of what their property was worth and what they were actually given by the MRA; (c) a thorough investigation should be conducted to ascertain if the differences, the MRA made by offering Blacks less money as compared to the amount of money the Urban Renewal-Regional Office in Chicago gave the MRA, were fairly substantial; (d) we wish to know what were the differences between the property values in the late 1950s and 25 years later into the 1980s. In other words, once the MRA announced its intentions, the value of the property sank to ZERO, because no one wanted to purchase the property since it was going to be demolished. Renters moved out. The reason we are focused on the 25 years is because this would have still been in the earning lifetime of these Black residents, which would have meant more wages and other benefits to them, their children and grandchildren. This is especially true, because this area now is considered prime property; businesses or corporations now have an increased land value of this property at today’s rates; and (e) we be informed of the amount of money made by illegal and criminal acts by MRA staff; how much of this money should be repaid back to Blacks at today’s rate of land property value in that area. To support my contention, I have included an article from The Capital Times titled “Urban Plans Work Hardship on Madison Negroes” written by Irvin Kreisman, dated February 15, 1961 which supports my claim.
We know you will these give these requests thoughtful consideration as you have always been a friend of equality and justice. I’d like to discuss the HARRIS PLAN more in detail with you; I can be reached at 255-5842.
Richard Harris, Ph. D.
14 Morningdale Circle
Madison, WI 53717
cc: Ms. LaDavia Drane, Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus, Washington, DC.; Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Wisconsin 4th Congressional District