0:00 - Introduction, moving to Milwaukee in the 1950s, and the social conditions there

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: DB: Okay my name is Donna, middle initial L, last name Burkett. I am sixty one years young. Today is Saturday July 14th 2007. And I am recording this at the City of Milwaukee main library downtown. And my partner, my interviewer is my friend.
JK: I am the interviewer in my name is Julia Kleppen and I'm sixty seven and today's date is, like Donna said, the fourteenth of July and were down at the Milwaukee public main library and I'm happy that she's calling me a friend. So, Donna you said you were born in Chicago?

Segment Synopsis: Burkett introduces the interview and provides some background on her life. She also provides her perspective on Milwaukee, saying it used to be a clean and less violent city when she came there as a child in the 1950s.

Keywords: Families; Youth

Subjects: Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Social conditions

2:56 - Awareness of attraction to women and her family's feelings about her sexuality

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: Now Donna, at what age do you think that you realized that you were, now what do you call yourself, gay or a lesbian or?
DB: Gay, I always knew it. Ever since I was a key at like, seven, eight, I always knew attracted to females.
JK: And how did your family feel about that?
DB: Well, I don't think it really didn’t make that much difference...

Segment Synopsis: Burkett explains that she knew early on that she was a lesbian, and that her sexuality was not perceived as a problem by her family until she tried to marry a woman in 1971. She describes telling her family about her decisions, and her family members' reactions.

Keywords: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Identity; Marriage; Sexuality

Subjects: Lesbians -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee

5:19 - Running away, joining the Army, marching for open housing in Milwaukee, and the differences between northern and southern racism

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: You said at one point that you left home at the age of sixteen?
DB: Yeah, yeah
JK: Because you?
DB: Because I didn’t like orders. I didn’t like being told what time I had to come in. You know. I was, like I said, bullheaded...

Segment Synopsis: Burkett describes her adolescent life, running away from home, living at a hotel, and working at a car wash while attending high school. She also details her decision to join the Army and contrasts the racism she experienced while stationed in Alabama with that she knew from the north. Burkett briefly describes her experiences, including crossing the 16th Street Bridge, marching with Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council in open housing demonstrations in Milwaukee in 1968.

Keywords: Economic hardships; Education; Protests; Racism; Work

Subjects: Civil rights demonstrations -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Social conditions Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Social life and customs

9:52 - Motives for activism, Milwaukee's 1970s LGBT culture, and perceptions of why segmentation occurred in “gay” identification and social life

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: So after you got out of the military you came back to Milwaukee?
DB: Right I came back to Milwaukee, right. My home.
JK: And when did you start getting involved in the gay and lesbian action things and then things like music too?
DB: I have no idea when. It just all kinda happened you know, just stumbling around, you know, trying to make a life l guess...

Segment Synopsis: Burkett describes returning to Milwaukee after her military service and meeting Manonia Evans. She explains the reasoning behind her attempt to legally marry a woman and her beliefs concerning political influence of social life. She also describes Milwaukee's 1970s gay community, including Gay People's Union activism, and details her beliefs about why the singular "gay" community split into factions of gay men and lesbians.

Keywords: Bars; Castaways South (Milwaukee, Wis.); Evans, Manonia; Gay Peoples Union (Milwaukee, Wis.); Marriage

Subjects: Gay activists -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Gay community -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Gay rights -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Lesbian activists -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Lesbians -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Social life and customs

13:54 - Police harassment and celebrating the passage of AB70 in Wisconsin

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: And you said sometimes the police would harass people?
DB: Oh yeah they used to drive past and take, write down people's license plates and numbers that was parked, you know, at the bar, around the bar. And then they will call, make calls, to their home. Say “do you know,” tell their spouse...

Segment Synopsis: Burkett describes the actions police used to take to harass patrons of gay bars in Milwaukee, including writing down licenses plates of cars parked near the bars and calling the owner's homes. She also describes how that has changed and recalls celebrating the passage of AB70, Wisconsin gay rights legislation, in 1982.

Keywords: AB70; Bars; Wisconsin

Subjects: Civil rights -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Gay community -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Gay rights -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee

15:42 - Attempt to marry Manonia and their approach to media the coverage of their efforts

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: DB: ...but then they start opening up, even with the marriage thing, it was such a big thing here. Because were on, we were, the papers were just following us around. You know, wanting interviews here, radio interviews. We had even got an invitation to go to New York to talk to on the Phil Donahue show...

Segment Synopsis: Burkett describes her attempts to get married to Manonia in 1971, the denial of their request, and their approach to the media coverage of their activities.

Keywords: Evans, Manonia; Marriage

Subjects: Lesbian activists -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Lesbians -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Politics and government

18:26 - Her grandfather’s BBQ restaurant and the differences in Manonia’s and her families

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: DB: She was from a political family, so to speak. I mean they were, I don't wanna say higher up, but they were on a different realm then my family. My family was down to earth. My grandfather started the barbecue business here in Milwaukee. His name was Black King…

Segment Synopsis: Burkett briefly explains that Manonia's family was different from hers, and then describes her grandfather's BBQ restaurant Black King. She states that it was the first sit-down African-American restaurant in Milwaukee and that prominent African-American individuals would visit there when coming through Milwaukee.

Keywords: Evans, Manonia; Families; Work

Subjects: Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Social life and customs

19:37 - Her family's opinions on her sexuality, Manonia's father's disapproval, and the end of Burkett and Manonia's relationship

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: DB: Yeah. But her father, her father was a minister. And he was some kind of big wheel in government, I don't know his first name but his last name was Evans. And they were… You know how those government people are. People that work for the government always thought they was over everybody you know. Higher echelon people, that’s what they thought.

Segment Synopsis: Burkett describes Manonia's father's actions and disapproval of his daughter's relationship with Burkett. Burkett asserts that Manonia's father threatened Manonia and locked her in her room for a week. She explains that after their story became news she and Mononia broke up, and Mononia went on to marry a friend of her father in Alaska. Burkett also further details her family's opinions and reactions to her sexuality.

Keywords: Evans, Manonia; Families

Subjects: Lesbians -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee

23:30 - Manonia's and her commitment ceremony, their marriage lawsuit, and interviewing for Jet magazine

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: Now did you and Manonia have a commitment ceremony of some sort?
DB: Yes we did. It was at, let me think, I think it was at Jefferson Hall. That was on Fond du Lac and like, off of Center. I mean, somewhere around the Center Street area and Fond du Lac. And I think that was, that was on Christmas Day...

Segment Synopsis: Burkett describes Manonia's and her commitment ceremony, which was on Christmas Day of 1971. She also explains their legal battle to get married, and the events that caused them to miss their appeal. Burkett mentions the profile Jet magazine wrote about Manonia and her.

Keywords: Evans, Manonia; Marriage; Wisconsin

Subjects: Gay rights -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Lesbian activists -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Lesbians -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee

28:31 - Opinion that her actions were normal and comments on political aspects of marriage

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: DB: I don't remember a whole lot before either. Things was just happening so fast and then I didn’t think it was such a big deal. It seemed like to me just common sense that the government can't just tell a citizen who they can marry and who they cannot marry…

Segment Synopsis: Burkett explains her reasoning for her actions and memory, stating that she always felt what she was doing was normal and that the government should not be able to tell individuals who they can marry. She details her opinions on gay rights and her historical legacy.

Keywords: Marriage

Subjects: Gay rights -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Lesbian activists -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Politics and government

30:00 - Working for AC Spark Plug and experiencing discrimination in the workplace

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: So now you know if you went to work for…
DB: AC Spark Plug
JK: AC Spark Plug and you were the first woman on the…
DB: Oh yeah, I went to work for them in '76. Well I got hired in 1974 but General Motors had these massive layoffs…

Segment Synopsis: Burkett describes working for AC Spark Plug (AC-Delco), a division of General Motors, to work on an assembly line. She briefly details the discrimination she experienced from other plant workers for being a black lesbian. She states that she was the first black female employee there and that she later became friendly with her co-workers.

Keywords: Discrimination in employment; Work

Subjects: Lesbians -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee

32:35 - Joining Lesbians of Color and her memory after a stroke

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: You also joined a group called lesbians of color?
DB: Oh yeah LOC. Yeah. I don't know how that, I don't remember how that, see I had a stroke so a lot of things, you know, weren't really, like, I did it because at that time it seemed like the right thing to do. And so it wasn't really a big thing, so I didn't stand out in my brain...

Segment Synopsis: Burkett explains that she does not remember how she came to join Lesbians of Color because she had a stroke. She explains that she has trouble remembering because doing so seemed normal to her, and for that reason doesn't stand out in her memory. Her and Kleppen discuss the group's activities.

Keywords: Lesbians of Color (LOC)

Subjects: Gay community -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Lesbians -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Social life and customs

33:55 - Love of music and DJing

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: Yeah you're a good DJ.
DB: Yep I used to love the music and, it was music or rap stuff, it was real music you know.
JK: Did you DJ for other events?
DB: Yes I did...

Segment Synopsis: Burkett talks about her love of music and her hobby of DJing and making mixes for friends. She states that she lost some jobs because she refused to play what the event wanted, and states she wouldn't play rap, hateful music, or music without a purpose.

Keywords:

Subjects: Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Social life and customs

35:29 - Activitism with Action Wisconsin

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: You were active in a statewide gay and lesbian group…
DB: Action Wisconsin
JK: Action Wisconsin, yeah
DB: Went up to Madison a few times. We used to go up to the capitol and have meetings up there

Segment Synopsis: Burkett describes her activities with Action Wisconsin and going to Madison to have meetings. She highlights her proud support of Tammy Baldwin.

Keywords: Action Wisconsin

Subjects: Lesbian activists -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Lesbians -- Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Politics and government

36:21 - Interaction with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and conclusion of interview

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript: JK: So you've been pretty active all your life in politics and, do you talk to people at the at the Senior Center in Washington Park?
DB: I surely do, in fact I got a chance to talk to Scott Walker. He came there and I was really hot at him!

Segment Synopsis: Burkett recalls her interaction with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. She describes questioning him about why after working respectfully her whole life there was no way for her to get to her doctor, and that afterwards Walker's staff helped provide her affordable transportation. Burkett and Kleppen then conclude the interview.

Keywords: Economic hardships

Subjects: Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Politics and government Milwaukee (Wis.) -- Social conditions

Search This Index
SearchClear