The Neville Public Museum

The Neville Blog

Women's History Month: Deborah Beaumont Martin

Thursday, February 28, 2019
On the shelves in every historic institution in Brown County sits a two volume, 900 page historic work called “History of Brown County.” Published in 1913, this compilation of historic data was the result of hard work that Deborah Martin was only paid $150 to complete.

Historian Glenn Toule said it best after Deborah’s passing, “it is in the field of history that Miss Martin made her greatest contribution to Green Bay and Brown County.” Thanks to her diligence and work, the history you see around you has been preserved for us and future generations.

Deborah's fascination with the community and the people who made it led her to work as a librarian and historian for more than 30 years. She ran the Kellogg Public Library at a time before women could even vote.


Deborah was also instrumental in creating a public museum. She was part of the Green Bay Art Club that started the Green Bay Public Museum (now the Neville). At the time of her death she was the President of the Board of Directors for the Museum Corporation. We are grateful to Deborah and women like her who kept history alive for generations to come.

Lisa Kain
Curator

First African American in Pro Football Hall of Fame Played for the Packers

Monday, February 25, 2019
Moving from New York to Green Bay in 1959 was a bit of a culture shock for Emlen Tunnell. Housing as always was hard to find. Tunnell ended up staying at the Hotel Northland in downtown Green Bay during his two seasons with the Packers. It is rumored that Coach Lombardi even paid for the room and board. 

Coach Lombardi brought the New York Giants veteran player with him when he took the job in Green Bay. Not only was Tunnell a seasoned defensive veteran, he was also a well-respected leader on and off the field. He assisted Coach Lombardi in changing the mindset of the team and led the defense. He also aided in bringing other talented black players to Green Bay. 

“Em was a very bright guy who helped me tremendously. He had been around so long, one of the first black stars in the league, and for me just to have the opportunity to hang around him, I was awed by that.”- Willie Wood


Tunnell played for Green Bay for three seasons after which he became an NFL scout. In 1967, the Pro-Football Hall of Fame inducted Tunnell making him the first black player to receive the honor. 

“Emlen was a pretty special guy,” Kramer said. “He was a pro’s pro. He was a classy and bright guy as well. Emlen was a fierce competitor. He also helped tutor the young defensive backs like Willie Wood and Herb Adderley.”- Jerry Kramer 

Where Did Lombardi-Era African American Players Live?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Imagine moving to a new city for a dream job. The first thing you do is look for a place to live. What do you do if you can’t find one? This is what African American players faced when they moved to Green Bay. Jim Crow laws and racism were most evident in the South, but racism was also a present in the North. For example, a De Pere development barred African Americans and Jewish people from living there in 1948.[1] This was only two years before Bob Mann (the first African American player to start for the team) joined the Packers.

With few places willing to rent to them, African American players were forced to live in small cabins, the YMCA, and hotels. Some even stayed in a room at an extermination business owned by former player Tony Canadeo’s brother.[2] When Herb Adderley came to Green Bay, he lived in the “little shack down by the tracks.” In 1961, Adderley, Davis, and Pitts shared a one-bedroom place on Velp Avenue.[3]

African Americans living in Green Bay faced many of the same challenges whether they played football or not. Housing was hard to find without facing discrimination. For example, in 1959, the Wisconsin State Reformatory hired Joseph Harris, an African American social worker. Joseph met discrimination when attempting to buy a home in Green Bay.[4] He was also subject to race-based harassment. Harris said in a Green Bay Press-Gazette article: “[t]here would be rotten eggs and vegetables on my porch in the morning. Once someone painted ‘nigger go home’ on my door. But a deliveryman washed it off.”[5]

Coach Lombardi did what he could to help ensure decent housing for his players. Things started to change when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. The act prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, or sex.[6] While both Lombardi’s help and the Fair Housing Act were steps in the right direction, it was still difficult finding a place to live in a predominantly white community.


Learn more about Civil Rights and Green Bay in Delay of Game: Experiences of African American Players in Titletown open through March 24, 2019,

Lisa Kain
Curator

[1] Tashjian, Victoria. “Area Home to Growing Black Population in 19th Century,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, June 11, 2015.
[2] Christl, Cliff. Packers Heritage Trail: The Town, The Team, The Fans From Lambeau to Lombardi. Stevens Point, Wisconsin: KCI Sports Publishing, 2017.
[3] Adderley, Herb, Dave Robinson, and Royce Boyles. Lombardi’s Left Side. Olathe, Kansas: Ascend Books, 2012.
[4] “Welcome Joe Harris,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, February 21, 1961.
[5] Knaus, Bob. “No Race Problem Here? Homes, Jobs Hard to Find for Negroes in Green Bay,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, June 2, 1963.
[6] “Fair Housing- It’s Your Right,” HUD.GOV, accessed July 2018, https://www.hud.gov/topics/housing_discrimination.

African American Civil War Veteran Makes His Home in De Pere

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Image courtesy of the De Pere Historical Society

Henry Sink was born into slavery in 1830 in Batesville, Alabama. He escaped slavery through unknown means and by 1864 he and his young family had made their way to Northeast Wisconsin. Sink served in the Union Army during the Civil War. It was the only time he spent away from Wisconsin, with the exception of some time spent in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


Though African Americans in nineteenth century Wisconsin faced racism, they persevered and made lives for themselves here. Henry worked in Fond du Lac, Green Bay, and De Pere as a factory fireman, day laborer, and sailor. He learned to read and write here. Henry and his wife were recognized by the Brown County Democrat as “leaders of De Pere’s colored population.” He was a member of the De Pere post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization for Union veterans.



From the Neville Public Museum Collection
The Civil War abolished slavery but discrimination and racism continued. In 1900 Henry Sink purchased a home in De Pere, to the unremarkable notice of the local paper. However, Henry would not have been welcome as a De Pere homeowner in subsequent decades, when the gains made by African Americans during Reconstruction faced backlash across the nation.


In 1928 in De Pere, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross less than a half mile north of where Henry had owned his home. In 1948, less than a half mile south of his home, a new De Pere subdivision barred African American (and Jewish) home ownership. Northeast Wisconsin’s African American population plummeted in the early decades of the twentieth century.







Content courtesy of Victoria B. Tashjian, Ph.D.




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