Documentary Filmmaker Joanne Williams Uncovers the Incredible Story of Kaukauna & King: 50 Years Later
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Documentary Filmmaker Joanne Williams Uncovers the Incredible Story of Kaukauna & King: 50 Years Later

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Joanne Williams interviewing a student for her upcoming documentary Kaukauna & King: 50 Years Later.

February 24, 2017

Written by Joanne Williams, Producer/Director of the documentary film Kaukauna & King: 50 Years Later; Host of Black Nouveau on MilwaukeePBS; former anchor/reporter at FOX6 News; and Loaned Executive for United Way for four campaigns.

In my “retirement,” I have discovered a new passion and profession: documentary filmmaking. My first full-fledged project, occupying most of my time for the last year, is titled Kaukauna & King: 50 Years Later.

Through interviews and research, this documentary tells the story of a special student exchange aimed at racial understanding that made a difference in the lives of 13 high school students, their families, and broader communities at the height of the Civil Rights era in 1966.

White students from Kaukauna High School in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin and Black and White students from Rufus King High School in Milwaukee did a month-long school exchange to perform the controversial play In White America. The play was re-staged in 2016 at Rufus King high school, and we were there to document its impact on teenagers and audiences 50 years later.

This film and accompanying community engagement events will foster new conversations of ways to improve race relations through theatre, education, understanding, empathy, and optimism.

I have covered news in Southeast Wisconsin for more than 40 years on WTMJ-TV and WITI-FOX6. During those years, this story has always been in the back of my mind and in the back of my files. Something told me, 50 years ago when I was a student at Rufus King High School, to hang onto a 1966 edition of the “King’s Page,” the student newspaper. Maybe I was a journalist even then, but I was definitely interested in history, so the paper stayed tucked away in my box marked ‘high school stuff’. Sometime in early 2016 I realized that it had been 50 years since this exchange took place and, knowing a good story when I see one, set out to tell it.

The impact this exchange had on the students who were 16 and 17 years old at the time and how it has since changed their lives is a story worth exploring; the success of this small step in understanding during a time of racial turmoil is worth uncovering.

In 2018 you will be able to see this story on a screen. Stay tuned.

For questions about this documentary, contact Joanne Williams at

Joanne isn’t the only Milwaukee native uncovering stories of Black history. Check out our recent blog with Katrina Hightower, who is researching the history of Black Wall Street.

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