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Carl Stokes on Aiding Cleveland's African-Americans

Carl Stokes on Aiding Cleveland's African-Americans

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Norman S. Minor (1901-1968)
Norman S Minor was an African-American attorney, originally a prosecutor and then a defense attorney. He helped to train a number of Cleveland’s prominent black attorneys including Louis and Carl Stokes

The late Congressman Louis Stokes who trained under Mr. Minor called him the “Greatest criminal trial lawyer this state has ever known” in this interview (12:32)

From Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:
(19 July 1901-15 May 1968), noted criminal trial attorney under whom a number of Cleveland’s prominent black attorneys, including Merle McCurdy and Louis and CARL STOKES, trained, was born in Oak Park, Ill., to Arthur and Rebecca Walden Minor. He came to Cleveland when he was 4. After 2 years at the University of Michigan, he graduated with an LL.B. degree from John Marshall Law School in 1927, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1928. From 1928-30, Minor was associated with the firm of Payne, Green, Minor, & Perry, taking cases of men in jail who needed a free lawyer in order to gain trial experience. Appointed assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor in 1930, he was assigned to cases in which the defendants were black since the discriminatory system at the time limited general use of his skills. He worked effectively to change the policy for subsequent black prosecutors and, despite discrimination, became one of Cleveland’s best criminal trial lawyers. He prosecuted more than 5,000 felony cases, including 13 successful prosecutions for 1st-degree murder, his most famous case being that of Willie “The Mad Butcher” Johnson, convicted of murdering 12 women during the 1930s and 1940s. Involved in Democratic party politics, Minor polled the largest vote of any black candidate to that time in a 1937 election defeat for a municipal court judgeship. In 1948 Minor returned to private practice as a criminal defense lawyer specializing in homicide cases.

Minor married three times and had two children. He had a son, Harold Craig (Green) Minor (b.1921-d.1988) a daughter, Valena (Williams) from the Feb. 1922 marriage to Grace C. Jones which ended in divorce in 1926. Minor married Norvell Major (d. 1937) in 1928 and in 1938, Minor married Mary Christian. He is buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.

Ebony Magazine article on Norman S. Minor, November 1963
Click here (8mg pdf)

Incredible quote from Ebony essay:
“(Minor) has been either the prosecutor or the defense lawyer in almost every heinous crime committed in Cleveland since 1930, the year he began his trial work.”
Google books link is here

By Mansfield Frazier. Published on 11/11/2009 – 8:39pm

One summer afternoon, in must have been in 1956 or ’57, as my father was totaling up the money from the day shift waitress in the tavern he owned on Scovill Avenue, he saw my eyes grow wide at the stack of bills he was counting. Growing up, I must have seen him perform this tallying ritual many times before — the difference that time being, I was entering puberty and with a growing interest in the opposite sex, I needed to dress better … thus my growing interest in money. There was this cool pair of Stetson shoes that I wanted to be the first in my school to own. “Son,” he simply said, “those folks down in Washington print way too much of this stuff for a sucker not to have a pile of it.” That was all of the economic advice he ever gave me … and it proved to be all I ever needed.

Just as he was imparting this life lesson to me, his friend, attorney, and business associate of sorts, Charles V. “Charlie” Carr (who also was the Ward 17 city councilman at the time) was walking up to the end of the bar where we were standing, and, overhearing our conversation, took the opportunity to reinforce the message: “Listen to your father, young man, he’s telling you straight … and don’t you ever forget this: The best thing you can do for poor people is to not be one of them.” Then, as if to visually punctuate his comment, he took a large wad of cash out of his pocket and handed it to my father, saying, “From yesterday, count it.”

“No need to Charlie,” my father replied, “but what are you doing dropping off?”
Carr responded, “Lem had to take his mother to the doctor, but I had to come past here on my way down to City Hall anyway … I’ll see you at ward club meeting tonight, right?” he asked as he exited the door.

Now I can’t say for certain, but what I’d most likely had just witnessed was a payout in what insiders called the “digits” business (a euphemistic term for the illegal lottery more commonly known as the “numbers racket”). Virtually everyone in black neighborhoods “played the numbers,” and watering holes doubled as booking parlors. Operators like my father received a cut of the winnings whenever someone “hit.” And someone must have hit big, since there must have been 25 or 30 hundred dollar bills that he fanned before putting them into his safe.
* * *

At that point in his career, after serving over 10 years on Cleveland City Council, Charlie Carr was arguably the most politically powerful black man in Cleveland. He certainly was the most skillful and clever … if not always the most liked and trusted. He’d won his seat from Republican W.O. Walker, then the publisher of the Call & Post newspaper, on his third attempt by making a campaign promise to introduce legislation that would make it virtually impossible for the police to raid and arrest numbers operators. His argument was simple: If Catholic churches could host bingo games and casino nights, why then couldn’t blacks play the numbers without fear of arrest?

There’s a saying that when a smart politician sees a parade forming, he jumps in front and start leading … and that’s exactly what Charlie Carr did in 1947. The May Co. did not hire black sales clerks, but returning black soldiers were demanding change. When the picket lines formed in front of the store black folks were carrying signs that read “Don’t Shop Where You Can’t Work.” Carr was one of the organizers of the demonstration, and my mother was one of the women carrying a sign.

Additionally, my father was one of the dozen or so black men — bar owners, numbers runners, and some very tough up-and-coming professional boxers — standing silently across Euclid Avenue (a few with pistols in their pockets) observing. Some of the men brought their children along I was four years old as I watched history unfold. The white police officers glowered at the knot of black men, and the black men glowered right back. I recall Carr crossing the street to briefly huddle with the black men, and then walking over and speaking with the police officers before going back over to talk to the demonstrators. The term “shuttle diplomacy” had yet to be invented, but Charlie Carr had already mastered it. In less than a week May Co. officials agreed to hire three black sales clerks.

The next month I was among the first group of black kids to ride on the merry-go-round at the previously segregated Euclid Beach Amusement Park, located on Lakeshore Boulevard at E.160th. In 1946 Carr had introduced an ordinance that would make it illegal for amusement park operators to discriminate, and by the summer of ’47, after some protests that turned violent, that battle was also won.

Just as Birmingham, Alabama is rightfully known as the birthplace of the black Civil Rights Movement in America, Cleveland, due in large part to Charlie Carr, can make the claim of being the birthplace of the black political rights movement in this country — the proof being the election of Carl B. Stokes as the first black mayor of a major American city in 1967.

Arnold Pinkney, who was Stokes’ campaign manger, states that the victory would not have been possible without Charlie Carr. “After we won, black politicians from all over the country came to Cleveland to learn how we’d pulled it off. We’d take them to talk to Carl, and then to talk to Charlie. They’d sit at his feet, and they’d listen, and they’d learn how to win,” said Pinkney.

Carr worked his magic by building on the tactics developed by Clevelander John O. Holly, a pioneering black organizer of the 30’s and 40’s, and mixing those with the tactics of the civil rights crusaders in the South beginning in the 50’s. He became a master builder of political machinery and learned how to leverage the strength of the small number of black elected officials by making strategic alliances with white politicians … when it suited his purpose. He understood the balance of power. Carr learned early-on that it took money to make the political machinery work, and he was shrewd enough to raise enough of it. The backbone of all political organizations is the precinct committee members — my father was proud to be one — and Carr kept a firm grip on them via money and patronage.

Carr, however, was not without his detractors. As Fred Crosby, a businessman who was a contemporary and close friend of boxing promoter Don King relates, Carr was always the smartest man in the room, and if anyone forgot that fact Carr didn’t mind reminding them. Although he only stood about 5’7” and was slight of build, he tended to dominate any gathering that he was part of.

“I got along with him fine, but not everybody did. One time Charlie was defending D.K. [Don King] and Virgil Ogletree after they got arrested for running a numbers operation,” said Crosby, “and he said in open Court that his clients were ‘just a couple of poor boys from the ghetto who were trying to better themselves in the only way they knew how, and they really are too dumb to be held accountable for their actions, your Honor.’ Both of these guys were probably millionaires by then, and they were mad as hell with Charlie for a long time, but he got them off. The thing was, if you got into a business deal with Charlie, you just might come out OK, but it was guaranteed that Charlie was going to come out OK. Whatever it took to win, he’d do it — I never recall him losing.”

However, in 1975 Carr finally did lose — to the young firebrand Lonnie Burten. Hough councilman David Collier (who was himself fighting off another firebrand in Fannie M. Lewis) recalls: “By then Charlie was 72 years old and wasn’t in the best of health, and he kind of took Burten for granted.” Additionally, while Carr was the master of finesse, Burten was riding the crest of the Black Power movement that was sweeping the nation. He was a brash, loud-talker who organized students at Cleveland State and Tri-C and then trounced Carr 2,521 votes to 1,678.

“Charlie was more than just a great role model and mentor, he was a great man,” said George Forbes. “He truly loved to help up-and-coming black politicians, as well as help the little guy. He believed in the power of the dollar, that’s why he engineered the takeover of Quincy Savings and Loan and turned it into the first black-owned bank in Cleveland … it was part of his life-long effort to make blacks more financially independent.”

Even though he was out of politics, after one of Forbes legendary displays of temper Carr called him and said, “George, quit pissing on every goddamn fireplug you come to.” Forbes says that one comment taught him how to judiciously pick his battles.
About a year after Carr was defeated his wife called Forbes and told him that Charlie was driving her crazy hanging around the house. So Forbes, as City Council president, arranged for Carr to be the first black appointed to the RTA board. “Charlie wasn’t there six months and he was running everything, the whole show,” said Forbes. “They used to get paid by the meeting, and they would meet a couple of times a month. As soon as those white guys put Charlie in charge they began holding all kinds of committee meetings … three, and sometimes four, meetings a week,” Forbes laughed.

Upon Carr’s death in 1987 Carl Stokes paid him the ultimate tribute: “Whatever the problem was, he would try to make the opposing parties see there was something in the solution that each could benefit from. That is the basic fundamental science of politics: compromise. He was the master of it, and I learned so much from him.”


In Cleveland, activist movements to address social and economic disparities began with the African Americans who moved north from southern states in the Great Migration, lived in segregated neighborhoods, often excluded from the larger community, and who were deprived of economic and social opportunities.

In response to this challenging environment, new activist organizations were formed to support community and individual advancement. In 1935 the Future Outlook League became the first organization in Cleveland to successfully use the boycott as a response to racial injustices. In 1963, the United Freedom Movement (UFM) was established as a coalition of more than 50 civic, fraternal, social and civil rights organizations. UFM protests targeted employment discrimination and were subsequently followed by a school boycott that lead to the desegregation of Cleveland public schools. The methods applied in Cleveland served as models of peaceful protest and mirrored those approaches being tried on a national scale, especially in southern cities of the United States.

The ultimate objective of the movement, characterized by civil resistance campaigns, acts of nonviolent protests and civil disobedience, was to end discrimination against African Americans and secure the rights assured in the U.S. constitution and federal law. Serving as a foundation for productive dialogue and understanding, the civil rights movement resulted in historic achievements including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Despite these efforts, African Americans in Cleveland and across the nation continued to believe that social justice was elusive and that their futures were bleak. Civil unrest replaced former commitments to nonviolent protests. Outbreaks occurred in the Watts District of Los Angeles, Harlem in New York City and the Hough neighborhood in Cleveland. The infamous Hough Riots occurred in 1966, where 2,200 National Guard troops were dispatched to reestablish order. During the unrest homes and businesses were destroyed and four African Americans died. At the same time, the economic condition of many of Cleveland’s African American residents worsened in part due to the movement of white residents and businesses to the suburbs. This pattern occurred in cities all around the country.

Rapidly growing intolerance for social inequality, along with an increase in organized groups seeking to end racial discrimination, resulted in a major shift in the political environment that made possible the election of Carl B. Stokes as the first black mayor of a major American city.

Stokes: New Vision, New Direction, New Hope

As Cleveland’s 51 st mayor, the Honorable Carl B. Stokes changed the course of the city’s history. His achievement not only set a standard for elections in major metropolitan communities but also established an agenda to meet the needs of Cleveland residents regardless of their racial and ethnic background. He was mayor for all of Cleveland, and during his two terms in office from 1967-1971, he accomplished much that serves the city steadfastly even today.

 He won voter approval for schools, housing and numerous other city projects. He also created "Cleveland Now!" – a public/private partnership that provided resources for a wide array of community needs. Equally important, Mayor Stokes demonstrated that in addition to civil rights activism, the cause of economic and social justice could be advanced by understanding the political process, by developing the knowledge and skills to organize and rally the voting base and by implementing a strategically focused and effective political campaign.

While Carl Stokes was pursuing his political career, his brother Louis was also making a profound impact on the civil rights movement as a gifted lawyer. He defended civil rights activists and led the successful challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court of a proposed redistricting of Ohio’s 21 st Congressional District, a change that would have muted the voice of Cleveland’s African-American community. Following that victory, he was impressed upon to leave his legal office for the campaign trail, winning the 21 st District seat in 1968 as Ohio’s first African-American representative. His 15 terms over 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives including founding the Congressional Black Caucus, chairing the House Intelligence Committee, serving as the senior member of the Appropriations Committee and chairing special investigations into the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the half century since Carl Stokes’ election, the influence of the Stokes brothers continued to resonate in Cleveland and serve as a foundation for many efforts currently underway. In the educational arena, the Cleveland Plan outlines the principles and measures leading to school reform and improvements. The Transformation Alliance is the quality assurance arm of the plan governed by a board of directors led by Mayor Frank G. Jackson and comprised of leaders from throughout Greater Cleveland. The Higher Education Compact involves colleges and universities in improvements by insisting they provide support systems that promote the success of students enrolling at their institutions from the public schools.

 Cleveland has witnessed a resurgence of affordable housing, accompanied by some neighborhood revitalization. A more attractive and inviting downtown corridor has materialized over the past 50 years, including Gateway, the lakefront, the Euclid Avenue corridor, the Opportunity Corridor and the completed Public Square overhaul.

The Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth are making concerted efforts to minimize health disparities in concert with Care Alliance, an example of an organization that offers free or affordable health intervention. Mayor Stokes’ dream of a community-oriented police division may be realized with the Department of Justice Consent Agreement that requires the implementation of measures to promote transparency and community engagement through such measures as a Community Police Commission.

There are many other improvements that could be added to this list to demonstrate that the city has made progress since the election of Mayor Stokes. In the same vein, we can identify additional challenges in housing, education, health care, public safety and the economy that will require our continued attention.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future of Cleveland

Even as Cleveland has prospered during downtown redevelopment and community revitalization, the city has nonetheless been slow to recover from recurring economic downturns when compared to benchmark cities. Hardest hit during these times of financial challenge are less advantaged neighborhoods in all parts of the city. Thus, during times of great opportunity, including the present, we must extend to all the benefits that too often have accrued only to the few.

 This effort must begin with bringing organizations and people of Cleveland together to commemorate the past and develop actionable plans with outcomes that lead to a more inclusive city and that continue to respond to myriad ongoing challenges. Improved educational attainment, affordable and viable housing, better health care delivery, meaningful training and jobs, transparent community-oriented policing and advancements in the social and environmental factors that surround these elements must be a priority.

To carry out this work, new forms of leadership will be required for subsequent generations that build upon the legacy of political and social activism Cleveland is noted for. Artifacts of the past and plans for the future of Cleveland must act as a foundation for this work, along with exhibits that serve as a lasting tribute and illustration of a bright and purposeful future for the residents of Cleveland and neighboring communities who benefit from its position as a city of great promise and opportunity.

About this collection

Carl Stokes (1927-1996) was the mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, from 1967-1971. Stokes was the first African American mayor of a major American city and the first African American Democrat in the Ohio State Legislature, where he served three terms from 1962-67. As mayor, Stokes launched a number of programs to alleviate the problems of urban decay. Chief among these was Cleveland: NOW!, a joint public and private program with plans to raise $177 million in its first two years to revitalize Cleveland. The program was discredited due to the Glenville Shootout in July, 1968. Under Stokes, Cleveland City Council passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Ordinance, and HUD resumed funding projects aiding in the construction of over 3,000 new low- and middle-income housing units. Stokes became a newscaster with NBC television in 1972, and returned to his law practice in Cleveland in 1980. In 1983, Stokes was elected a municipal court judge. The collection consists of formal individual portraits of Carl Stokes, individual and group portraits of the Stokes family and friends, city officials, local and national celebrities and political figures, and individual citizens. It also includes candid and formal group portraits and views of official functions of the mayor, functions of individual city departments and commissions, and local community groups. Included are portraits of Hubert H. Humphrey, Edmund Muskie, Rev. Billy Graham, Pope Paul VI, entertainers Bob Hope and Bill Cosby, and Congressmen Charles Vanik and Louis Stokes. Events depicted include Cleveland NOW! activities, urban renewal and housing rehabilitation, the Glenville shootout, and youth activities.

Carl Stokes with Bob Hope Black and white group portrait of Carl Stokes, Bob Hope, and unknown person in car, probably at old Municipal Stadium.

The Hough Uprisings of 1966

On July 5, 1966, Mayor Ralph S. Locher unveiled an eight-point peace program meant to alleviate racial tensions in Cleveland. Prepared by Locher’s administration, businessmen, politicians, community activists, and religious leaders, the pact forged a symbolic peace between the city government and Cleveland’s African American community in response to an eruption of violence in the Hough and Glenville neighborhoods. For four nights beginning June 23rd, bands of youths roamed the East Side. Rocks, bottles and fire bombs were thrown from moving vehicles, a handful of pedestrians were assaulted, and vandals targeted businesses near Superior Avenue and East 79th Street. Upwards of 200 policemen patrolled the area. A helicopter loomed overhead, directing police battalions towards congregating youths. Showcasing recently acquired white helmets, riot sticks and tear gas guns, the uniformed squads evoked imagery reminiscent of civil rights unrest in the American South. While some community members considered it a “violent demonstration,” others attributed the outbreak to teenagers blindly striking against society. In reality, racial inequality and the economic disparities endemic in segregated neighborhoods lay at the root of the violence. As reported by Cleveland’s African American newspaper, the Call and Post, the local government was “dealing with dynamite, and ”…a crash program of reform” was necessary to avoid further racial violence.”

In large part, the unrest grew from distrust of Cleveland’s government, particularly the police force. Longstanding racial tensions with neighboring white communities set the stage two white men fired a gun from their vehicle into a group of African American boys that had been throwing rocks at passing cars. A ten-year-old child was hit in the groin and admitted to the hospital. Rumors quickly spread that attending police officers refused to take descriptions of the young witness’s assailants. A crowd gathered and began pelting the police with rocks. The ensuing peace pact recommended a full investigation of the shooting, impartial handling by police of all persons involved in the disorder, full integration of the police force, the holding of a mass community meeting, the creation of a committee to investigate the needs of inner-city areas, an investigation into incendiary race hate literature recently circulated on the East Side by white supremacists, and the employment of specially trained police officers in the affected neighborhoods until tensions abated. The efforts proved ineffective in quelling the unrest. By month’s end, Cleveland joined a growing number of U.S. cities that became grounds for violent social uprisings during the 1960s.

During the week-long uprising, four African Americans died and an incalculable amount of property damage was incurred due to widespread fires and looting. This second revolt, also a response to the inequalities faced by the Black community living on Cleveland’s east side, became known as the Hough Riots. Similar incidents had become increasingly common - and feared - in northern cities. Civil disorder in the form of “race riots” had become a costly bargaining unit for marginalized communities abandoned by governing institutions. Each of these aging industrial centers had previously been remolded in the face of segregation and suburbanization.

Hough first developed as a product of suburbanization. The area took its name from Oliver and Eliza Hough, who settled there in 1799. Before the Civil War, the area was primarily farmland. Hough became an exclusive community following incorporation into the City of Cleveland in 1873, and housed some of the city’s most prominent residents and private schools. Spanning about two square miles, the Hough neighborhood was bordered by Euclid and Superior avenues and East 55th and 105th streets. As Cleveland industrialized and expanded outward through World War I, wealthy residents of Hough increasingly moved further east to newer suburbs. Many homes were split into apartments, and Hough became densely populated with white working and middle class residents by midcentury.

Much of Cleveland’s African American community concentrated in the Cedar-Central neighborhood to the south of Hough during this time,. Previously displaced by downtown housing clearance projects meant to guide business district growth in the early 20th century, the Black community was upended again in the 1940s as city officials pursued highway development and so-called urban renewal in Cedar-Central. Restrictive banking and real estate practices, in combination with segregated public housing placement, steered displaced African Americans towards the Hough and Glenville neighborhoods. With an influx of Black migrants from the South during the Second Great Migration, Hough transitioned from a white to a Black community by 1960. White residents left en masse, moving to Cleveland’s west side and newly developed suburbs. These neighborhoods forged their identities in contrast to emerging communities of color, and systemically excluded African Americans. Even as whites fled Hough, the neighborhood’s population peaked at over 83,000 in 1957 before dropping to about 72,000 in 1966. At the time of the uprisings, 90% of Cleveland’s Black community lived in Black neighborhoods on the city’s east side. Cleveland had become one of the nation’s most segregated cities. As Black residents crowded into Hough, the proximity to available jobs diminished with a concurrent exodus of industry to the suburbs, leaving African Americans in mostly low-paying, unskilled jobs. Inadequate schools and the resistance of local trade unions to integrate only exacerbated the impact of high Black unemployment.

The influx of new residents moving into Hough taxed available resources. Schools were overcrowded, garbage amassed on side streets and open lots, and the community lacked recreation spaces. Virtually no new homes had been built in Hough since World War II. To accommodate the growing population, aging residences were further broken into units. The city did little to enforce existing housing codes that governed occupancy and living standards. Vacant homes deteriorated, becoming hazards to the community and breeding grounds for vermin. Even as Hough’s physical condition declined, residents were regularly charged high rents due to the limited housing options available to the Black community in Cleveland and the refusal of suburbs to accept Black residents.

City officials publicly recognized the deteriorating state of Hough, but did little more than offer well-intentioned proposals and plans. The University - Euclid urban renewal project was one of two major redevelopment plans unveiled in 1960. The scope of this massive project included much of the Hough neighborhood. In a move away from the “slum clearance” approach to urban development, the plan emphasized housing rehabilitation and the development of recreation spaces. The project rolled out with fanfare, but soon faced delays and funding setbacks.

Despite resource inventories and grand promises, only a handful of scattered rehabilitation efforts in Hough came to fruition by 1966. While delays were often tied to federal and local oversight of the massive endeavor, completed work was typically over budget and behind schedule. The city administration appeared to be diverting its resources towards the Erieview renewal area in downtown rather than aiding struggling east side neighborhoods. Speculation also grew that the local authorities were allowing Hough to become blighted in order to lower the cost of acquiring land for a proposed Heights Freeway project. Marred by general disorganization and administrative mismanagement, the federal government eventually froze funding for Cleveland urban renewal projects. Vacant lots littered with dirt and rubbish quickly became the most common evidence of renewal efforts in Hough.

While city officials did little to stem the impact of suburbanization and segregation on Hough, the administration’s law enforcement branch physically embodied and actively reinforced discriminatory policies and practices that promoted social inequality. A longstanding tradition of hostile relations existed between Black residents and the police. Charges of police brutality and a dual system of law enforcement persisted throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but were dismissed by a predominately white city administration. An independent report in 1965 found that only 175 of the force’s 2100 employees were Black. Only two held rank above patrolman, and few were assigned duty to west side neighborhoods.

Cleveland’s segregated police department was racially unrepresentative of the community it served, and offered no recourse for civilian grievances to be heard. While many residents of Hough advocated for a stronger, integrated police presence in order to deter crime, complaints regularly surfaced concerning the department’s use of excessive force and practice of turning a blind eye toward racial violence against the Black community. Throughout the 1960s, instances of violence perpetrated by African Americans against white victims resulted in public outrage and swift arrests - often with little evidence. In cases of racially motivated attacks against persons of color, police often blamed the victims for inciting violence. In the years leading to the unrest in Hough, Locher’s administration refused to meet with community groups concerning mounting claims of physical and verbal abuse against Cleveland’s Black community. As racial tensions grew, Cleveland’s police department became a symbol of the city administration's alignment with white interests. Beginning on July 18, 1966, and lasting approximately one week, residents clashed with police as discontent over living conditions and systemic racial injustice surfaced in Hough.

Sparked by a minor racially-charged dispute at a neighborhood bar, the July uprising in Hough brought widespread looting, arson and destruction. While impacting the entire community, primary targets were white-owned stores, abandoned buildings, and residences owned by absentee landlords. As symbols of civic authority, police officers and firemen were met with violence no white civilians were attacked. Conversely, an African American was fatally shot by a patrol of white vigilantes while driving to work. Three additional Black residents of Hough were also killed by unknown assailants during the week.

Outbreaks of violence diminished in severity beginning July 22nd. Local ministers, civic leaders and community activists met the following morning in an effort to establish peace and address the problems that incited the tragic events. Mayor Locher refused to attend, but was presented with the underlying causes of the uprising on July 25th in City Council by Hough area councilman M. Morris Jackson.

A special session of the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury convened that same day to explore the causes of the riot. Headed by former Cleveland Press editor Louis B. Seltzer, an all-white jury of non-Hough residents presided. Following a bus tour of Hough and interviews with residents, law enforcement, civic leaders and government officials, the fifteen-member committee released their conclusion in a report on August 2, 1966. They determined that the uprising was instigated by a small, organized group of extremist agitators with communist leanings. The police force was exonerated of all wrong-doing and abuses, and stricter sentences for crimes committed during riots were recommended. While acknowledging Hough residents faced social and economic inequalities in their daily life, the committee did not considered these to be causes of unrest. Instead, the jury asserted that radicals had exploited these conditions to provoke teenagers into rioting. The report not only dismissed the possibility that Hough residents had agency in their decision to participate in or support the uprising, but exonerated the city government from culpability in creating conditions that fostered civil disorder. Exemplifying their misreading of the situation, the committee concluded that the “Negro community may be moving too fast for the total community to bear” Cleveland was not ready to accept African Americans as equal members of society.

The report, lauded by Mayor Locher, sparked outrage in Cleveland’s Black community. Its findings were quickly refuted by both federal and community sponsored investigations into the unrest. No evidence was found to corroborate the jury’s findings that Communist agitators were responsible for inciting or propelling violence. Instead, a citizen committee organized by the Urban League of Cleveland determined that the city’s disregard of social conditions in Hough “led to frustration and desperation that…finally burst forth in a destructive way.” The committee documented numerous examples of the police exacerbating unrest through use of derogatory slurs and excessive force. These different readings of the uprising in Hough were an ominous predictor of a long and difficult road ahead for efforts to rebuild the neighborhood.

Despite an influx of federal funds for rehabilitation, the economic and physical condition of Hough did not dramatically improve in the wake of the 1966 uprisings. Social unrest, accompanied by widespread looting and arson, would revisit the area during the summer of 1968 following a shootout between police and Black nationalists. The population of Hough rapidly declined as more suburbs slowly began to open up to Black residency. Even as overcrowding subsided, the inability of local government to address issues of segregation, racial discrimination, economic and social inequality, neighborhood deterioration, and poor police-community relations continued to impact Cleveland’s communities of color. Institutionalized policies and practices that reinforced the underlying causes of the 1966 Hough uprisings had been inscribed into the landscape, and would continue to guide the trajectory of Cleveland’s development over the proceeding decades.

The election of Richard Hatcher as Mayor of Gary, Indiana, in 1967 signaled a turning point in black politics. When Hatcher became the first elected Black mayor of a U.S. metropolitan city, he helped to ignite a debate about whether electoral politics should become a primary tactic of achieving Black Power or an end unto itself. In the years since, many of the major American cities have elected African American mayors.

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Carl B. Stokes (1927-1996)

Carl B. Stokes, lawyer, anchorman, U.S. diplomat and the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city, was born on June 21, 1927 to Charles and Louise Stokes in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1944, Stokes dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and worked briefly for Cleveland-based aerospace and automotive company Thompson Products/TRW before enlisting in the US Army in 1945. Returning to Cleveland in 1946 after his discharge, he reentered high school and earned his diploma in 1947 before enrolling in West Virginia College. Stokes transferred to Western Reserve University and then the University of Minnesota, from which he received his BA in 1955. Stokes returned to Cleveland where he completed law school at Cleveland-Marshall Law School in 1958. He was hired as an assistant prosecutor for Cuyahoga County for four years before establishing his own firm, Stokes, Stokes, Character, and Terry in 1962 with his brother, Louis Stokes.

Carl Stokes’s political career also began in 1962 when he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. Stokes served until 1965 when he resigned to concentrate on running for Mayor of Cleveland. Stokes lost his mayoral bid that year but remained a prominent figure in Cleveland politics. In 1967, he defeated Seth Taft, the grandson of former president William Howard Taft, to become the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city.

Stokes served two two-year terms as Cleveland’s mayor. He was recognized both in Cleveland and throughout the nation as a supporter of the Civil Rights movement and a strong advocate of minorities’ rights. As mayor he opened numerous city government positions for African Americans and women.

Despite his commitment to equal opportunity, his tenure was nonetheless plagued by race-related problems including the Glenville Shootout, in which seven people were killed during a riot-like incident in the predominantly black neighborhood of Glenville. In a controversial attempt to decrease the tension in the neighborhood Stokes ordered all white police officers to leave the area, replacing them with black policemen and the National Guard. Although the black police presence was credited with rapidly ending the riot, the political fallout from his decision persuaded Stokes not to run for reelection in 1971.

Following his mayoral tenure, Stokes became the nation’s first black anchorman when he went to work at New York’s WNBC-TV in 1972. He left WNBC in 1980 and returned to Cleveland where he served as the legal counsel for the national headquarters of the United Auto Workers. In 1983 he was appointed a municipal judge in Cleveland, a position he held until 1994.



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Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities


Source: Western Reserve Historical Society Louis Stokes with Parents, 1925: Charles Stokes died in 1928, leaving his wife Louise to raise sons Carl and Louis by herself.

Source: Western Reserve Historical Society Carl and Louis Stokes with Mother: Carl and Louis Stokes post with their mother, Louise Stokes, around 1970. Louise moved with her sons to the Outhwaite Homes in 1938.

Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Aerial View, ca. 1940: An aerial view of the Outhwaite Homes taken around 1940. Image courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society Gardening Program at Outhwaite, 1941: Kids of all ages work together to garden at the Outhwaite Homes in 1941.

Source: Cleveland Memory Project (Identifier: nsxouthwaitehouse009.jpg), Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Kids at Outhwaite, 1952: Youngsters play on the lawn in front of an apartment building at Outhwaite Homes in 1952.

Source: Cleveland Memory Project (Identifier: nsxouthwaitehouse011.jpg), Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Opening Celebration, 1937: The Outhwaite Homes housing project opens with a celebration in 1937.

Source: Cleveland Memory Project (Identifier: outhwaite004.jpg), Cleveland State University Library Special Collections


CLEVELAND: NOW! was a joint public and private funding program for the revitalization of Cleveland which was announced by Mayor Carl B. Stokes 1 May 1968. Local businessmen, shocked by the April assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., agreed to cooperate with the city in a fundraising program to combat the ills of Cleveland's inner city in order to preserve racial peace. The plan was to raise $1.5 billion over 10 years with $177 million projected during the first 2 years to fund youth activities and employment, community centers, health-clinic facilities, housing units, and economic renewal projects. Geo. Steinbrenner III and the Group `66 organization of business leaders were committed to spearhead a public solicitation of $1.25 million from businesses, institutions, and individuals, and it was expected that local money from a .5% city income tax increase plus state and federal funds also would be channeled into Cleveland: Now! enterprises. Funding goals were quickly met for the first few months however, when the public was made aware that NOW funds had indirectly gone to purchase arms used in the GLENVILLE SHOOT-OUT of 23 July 1968, donations declined. NOW! actively operated until 1970, when Stokes announced that its last major commitment would be the funding of 4 new community centers. The organization was not formally dissolved until Oct. 1980, when the remaining $220,000 was given to the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION to use for youth employment and low-income housing.

Watch the video: Louis Stokes on Social Workers and the Policy-Making Process (July 2022).


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