Event sheds light on Sundown Oshkosh

Megan Behnke, Reporter

On Feb. 20, the UW Oshkosh History Department held a presentation for Black History Month, given by history professor Michelle Kuhl.

For the past few years, Kuhl has been giving her students the Sundown Town project, which includes having each student trace the history of a black resident of Oshkosh in 1900.

Kuhl said it’s important for students to learn the surprising and shocking history of racial discrimination of your current home.

“Many people assume that racism was only located in the south with slavery and segregation,” Kuhl said. “As a region, the Midwest is often overlooked when it comes to recognizing white supremacy. It is not an accident that the population of Wisconsin has just a few cities with a high percentage of black residents and then dozens of small towns that are nearly all-white. This situation came about from human choices.”

UWO senior and anthropology major Ayak Deng, who worked on the project, said you have to try to put yourself in the context of the period you’re trying to research for the project.

“We had to try to use words and phrases people from that time were using as well as names and places,” Deng said. “This project is tedious and takes a lot of time and patience.”

UWO African American Studies Club President Eskedar Robinson said the information in the presentation is important to share with other students and faculty so they can learn about the African American diaspora.

“This will have a positive impact as it will install pride of self in the African American community as well as help to confront the problems of racial discrimination,” Robinson said.

Kuhl said she hopes students take away two conclusions after the presentation.

“One is that Oshkosh, Wisconsin is part of a larger pattern in the Midwest of white residents forcing out black residents,” Kuhl said. “Two, student research is powerful and can uncover hidden parts of our past.”

Kuhl said her class, History 385 “African American History,” is offered every spring if students are ever interested, as well as checking out what the African American Studies Program offers.

“We are having a ‘Shopping Party’ on March 16 at 12:30-4 [p.m.] in Reeve 227 AB,” Kuhl said. “Any student interested in taking a class in African American Studies can come and find out more about Fall 2020 courses.”