University of Wisconsin–Madison

Vel Phillips, first female African American graduate

Vel Phillips

After earning her law degree in 1951, Vel Phillips went on to become the first woman to serve on Milwaukee’s Common Council, the first woman judge in Milwaukee County and the first African American judge in Wisconsin. She campaigned nationally for civil rights, waging a historic fair housing battle in Milwaukee. When Phillips died in 2018 at 95, she was eulogized in newspapers around the nation, including this New York Times obituary.

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