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Alum Simms publishes book highlighting history of Madison’s black pioneers

February 09, 2019

The Isthmus newspaper recently put the spotlight on an oral history collection of Madison’s black pioneers.

Muriel Simms is the editor of “Settlin’: Stories of Madison’s Early African American Families.” This collection of oral histories was published late last year by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

Muriel Simms
School of Education alumna Muriel Simms is the editor
of "Settlin': Stories of Madison's Early African American
Families."
Simms, 74, grew up in Madison, attending the city’s public schools and later UW-Madison, where she received three degrees — including two from the School of Education. Simms received her master’s degree from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in 1975, and earned a doctorate from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in 2002.

The Isthmus explains how after earning an undergraduate degree in English in 1968 she interviewed for teaching positions at Madison’s Sherman and Mendota elementary schools, but neither principal hired her.

The Isthmus reports: “In 1971 she was hired at Lincoln, which was then a middle school. (Falk had retired in 1963.) But it was a cool reception. ‘They did not want me there,’ she says. ‘They were not very kind. I felt I knew what they were thinking.’ She would go on to teach for many years, serve as the principal of Lincoln Elementary School from 1988 to 1994, and work in administration before retiring from the school district in 2000. Today she is an adjunct faculty member in Edgewood College’s educational leadership doctoral program.”

The newspaper explains how, over the years, Simms “had a nagging hope that someone would gather the stories of Madison’s early black residents before it was too late.”

“People I knew were passing on and I thought way back then that they had stories to tell — I know that good and bad things happened — and wouldn’t it be wonderful for someone to capture these stories,” Simms tells The Isthmus.

With no one stepping to the plate, Simms took on the project herself in 2003.

To learn much more about Simms and her new book, check out the article for free on this Isthmus web page.