Black Historical Society Museum funding stripped

One item that didn't make the 2021 state budget is the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum. Funding was stripped, but supporters are now rallying behind the Milwaukee institution.

For more than 30 years, the museum has been getting money from the state, but this year, lawmakers voted to eliminate all funding.  Now, people are opening their owns wallets to help.

That woman is a domestic worker and that’s her uniform.

For the past 34 years, the museum has been Clayborn Benson's passion.

"That woman is a domestic worker, and that's her uniform," he said."She is the first African American policewoman."

Wisconsin Black Historical Society

Benson, the museum's director, works to keep the history of African Americans alive at the museum near 27th and Center. 

"This is my mission, my life’s dream," he said.

He opened the museum in 1988, receiving more than $85,000 in funding from the state. This year, when Governor Tony Evers increased that funding in his budget to $169,000, Republican lawmakers objected, stripping the museum of all of its state funds.

"Disappointment, rejection," said Benson. 

"I was outraged," said Reggie Jackon, GoFundMe organizer.

When Jackson heard the news, he stepped in to help, starting a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $23,000.

"It says that people don’t want to lose this place," said Jackson. "They realize how valuable it is."

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It's only a fraction of what is needed to keep the place running, but it's a start.

"It’s been an overwhelming amount of support in just a few days," said Jackson. "It’s a beautiful thing to see."

Benson said the money is needed for things like staff and upkeep, the donations showing the importance of the museum.

"I am very appreciative," said Jackson. 

"This institution is important," said Benson. "It’s very, very important, and we value it."

Benson said he reached out to Representative Mark Born, the state lawmaker who was most vocal about stripping funding, inviting him to the museum. He said Born never responded.