This Black Milwaukee Family Broke Barriers For Four Generations

One of the most important families in Milwaukee Black History is the Watson family, and you may have seen them before in the Streets of Old Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Sully Watson was enslaved in the south before marrying Susana Watson, a free Black woman, and buying his freedom for $500, the equivalent to about $10,000 today. They had four children when they moved to Milwaukee. At the time, there were about 100 Black people already living here.

They purchased two homes in what is now Zeidler Union Square downtown.

Sully was a stone mason who worked on several buildings in Milwaukee, and Susana worked as a seamstress.

Their ground-breaking legacy continued with their son-in-law, William Thomas, who was one of the first Black men to vote in Wisconsin

Their great granddaughter, Mabel Raimey, was the first Black woman attorney in Wisconsin and the first to graduate from UW-Madison.

You can learn more about this fascinating family at It’s all part of the Museum’s Community of Curiosity, supported by Kohl’s Cares. You’ll find activities for all ages to learn about the history of the city’s Black heritage.

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