Settlin' - Muriel Simms - 02/09/2019 - 3:00pm


Community Rooms 301 & 302

Only a fraction of what is known about African American settlers in the Midwest, and the vibrant and cohesive communities they formed, has been preserved in traditional sources. Much is contained in the hearts and minds of their descendants. Seeing a pressing need to preserve these experiences, lifelong Madison, Wis., resident Muriel Simms collected the stories of twenty-five African Americans from Madison whose families arrived, survived, and thrived here in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


While some struggled to find work, housing and acceptance, they describe a supportive and enterprising community that formed churches, businesses, and social clubs -- and frequently came together in the face of adversity and conflict. A brief history of Madison's African American settlement sets the stage for the oral histories.

Muriel Simms

Muriel Simms

Muriel Simms is a lifelong Madison resident and longtime educator in the Madison Metropolitan School District. She received her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2002 and serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at Edgewood College. She has published articles in several education journals, including Elementary School Journal, Urban Education, and Democracy & Education, and has presented her research at two educational conferences, the American Education Research Association and the University Council for Education Administration Symposium. Simms served on boards for the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute, the Friends of Cherokee Marsh, the Community Development Block Grant Review Team, Volunteers in Probation, the Brams Addition Neighborhood Association, University of Wisconsin’s College Access Program, the South Madison Planning Committee, Madison’s Early Childhood Care and Education Committee, and the NAACP Madison Chapter. She has received several awards for her professional duties and community service, including the Martin L. King Jr. Appreciation Award, NAACP’s Unsung Heroine Award, 2012 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award from the Urban League of Greater Madison, and a “Muriel Simms Day” proclamation from the city of Madison. She was also named Wisconsin Elementary Principal of the Year in 1992 by the Wisconsin Association of Elementary School Principals and the Wisconsin and National School Board Associations. In 2003, she became interested in writing a book on Madison’s pioneer African American families by interviewing the descendants of these early settlers. She golfs, creates folksy art, and collects African American dolls and stamps.

Recent Book
Settlin': Stories of Madison's Early African American Families