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Madison Metropolitan School District

About Us

Welcome to Ezekiel Gillespie Middle School!

Our aim is to foster academic excellence. We provide a caring, nurturing community in which all students can feel supported and safe emotionally and physically. We believe that students are at the center of learning and we strive to challenge our students academically. We create an environment of academic excellence by using a variety of instructional strategies and activities to address the varied learning strengths of our students. Our dedicated staff works very hard to meet the individual needs of all students, and maintain personal relationships with our families.

Education is a partnership between the school, students, parents/guardians, and community. Together, we will continue to improve the quality of our school community and provide the best for the children of Ezekiel Gillespie Middle School. All children are more successful when we work as a team to achieve academic success.

We will confront and disrupt dispositions, beliefs, language, practices and systems that create inequities and provide all students, especially students of color, with a challenging, culturally relevant curriculum and educational experience.

The mission of Ezekiel Gillespie Middle School is to cultivate a welcoming, respectful, and inclusive learning community.  We inspire students to find joy in their unique identities and experiences by fostering an atmosphere of high expectations, empathy & kindness, and perseverance. We aim to empower young minds to excel academically while learning to be responsible, taking ownership of their education, and being compassionate global citizens. We are committed to promoting equity, nurturing critical thinking skills, and celebrating diversity, ensuring every individual feels a profound sense of belonging and achievement.

Building History and Name Change Process

Ezekiel Gillespie Middle School was in built in 1969, originally named Memorial Junior High, followed by Thomas Jefferson Middle School. On Feb. 22, 2023, Thomas Jefferson Middle School was renamed Ezekiel Gillespie Middle School this fall in honor of the man who won Black men the right to vote in Wisconsin.
On Feb. 27, 2023, the MMSD Board of Education approved renaming Thomas Jefferson Middle School to Ezekiel Gillespie Middle School. The process began when the school community made a formal request of the superintendent and the Board during a board meeting on Feb. 28, 2022. A 12-member Citizens' Ad Hoc Committee was created per Board Policy 6700 to gather community input and make renaming recommendations to the Board. 

About Ezekiel Gillespie

Born into slavery in Greene County, Tenn. circa May 31, 1818,  Ezekiel Gillespie went on to be one of the most influential voting rights activist in Wisconsin history. 

While limited documents are available from his childhood and early adulthood, records show Gillespie, his wife, and children moved from Indiana to Wisconsin in the early 1850s, following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This federal act required slaves be returned to their owners, even if they were in a free state, further endangering Black residents. By 1852, Gillespie and his family lived in Milwaukee, where he worked as a grocer, messenger, and office assistant.

Head and shoulders portrait of Ezekiel Gillespie.

Ezekiel Gillespie secured voting rights for Black men in Wisconsin in 1865. 

"The details that have emerged so far reveal Ezekiel Gillespie as man of strong character and conscience, of energy and determination." –John Holzhueter, Researcher, Wisconsin Historical Society

His prominent role as an activist began Oct. 31, 1865 when he attempted to register to vote for Wisconsin's gubernatorial election, but was denied by county officials. A week later on Election Day, Gillespie went to the polls with politician and abolitionist Sherman Booth to vote, this time with evidence that Wisconsin's 1848 state constitution grants Black men's suffrage, or right to vote. Nevertheless, his ballot was denied by the Board of Election inspectors.

Booth funded legal fees for Gillespie, who hired successful civil rights attorney Byron Paine to take his case. Before long, the case made its way through the Wisconsin judicial system, with Gillespie against defendants on the Board of Election: Inspectors Henry L. Palmer, William H. Williams, and Andrew H. McCormick. On March 28, 1866, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Gillespie and the 1848 state constitution, granting Black men in Wisconsin the right to vote. 

Source: Holzhueter, John O. “Ezekiel Gillespie, Lost and Found.”   Wisconsin Magazine of History, spring 1977, pp. 179–184.