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Podcast: Muriel Simms’ deeply interwoven oral histories

The lifelong Madisonian’s book “Settlin'” delves into the little-explored lives of the city’s earliest African-American residents.

The lifelong Madisonian’s book “Settlin'” delves into the little-explored lives of the city’s earliest African-American residents. (Photo by Jon Hain Photography.)

If you want to understand the role that race has played in Madison’s past and present, Settlin’: Stories Of Madison’s Early African American Families is an essential read. Its author, educator and Edgewood College faculty member Muriel Simms, began interviewing people for the book in the early 2000s, focusing on people who descended from African Americans who began putting down roots in Madison during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As you read the  more than 20 oral histories in Settlin’, you start to get a richly nuanced sense of who Madison’s first black residents were, the variety of their experiences, and how they struggled not just to get by but to build up lasting institutions. Settlin’ was published in 2018 by the Wisconsin Historical Society press. Simms will be talking about the book at two upcoming events, on February 9 at the Central Library and on February 19 at the Wisconsin Historical Museum. Simms sat down with us in December at her home on Madison’s north side.

Give the conversation a listen here, or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and consider supporting us financially with a one-time or recurring donation.

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