Hough: Before and Beyond. A Series on Cleveland’s Hough Neighborhood 50 Years After the 1966 Riots (Ideastream)
Hough: Before and Beyond. A Series on Cleveland’s Hough Neighborhood 50 Years After the 1966 Riots (Ideastream)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Hough Riots were race riots in the predominantly African American community of Hough (pronounced “Huff”) in Cleveland, Ohio that took place over a six-night period from July 18 to July 23, 1966. During the riots, four African Americans were killed and 30 people were critically injured. In addition, there were 275 arrests, while more than 240 fires were reported.
They shared underlying causes of social problems with other racial riots. The riots caused more people (and jobs) to leave the area, which suffered decades ofdisinvestment. Since the late 1990s, there has been some redevelopment.
On July 18, 1966, at dusk, someone posted a sign outside the 79’ers bar, situated on the southeast corner of E.79th Street and Hough Avenue. The sign read, “No Water For Niggers”. Adding to the volatility of the situation, the bar manager and a hired hand, both white, patrolled the front of the bar, armed with shotguns. An African American woman described as a “prostitute” was seeking money for charity. An altercation occurred and she was told to leave. Later, an African American man entered the building and bought a bottle of wine. When he asked for a glass of water, he was told that blacks were not being served.
Soon after, a crowd of about fifty people gathered outside. The Cleveland Police Department arrived, in force, to defuse the situation. The presence of the CPD only intensified the crowd’s anger. As angry crowds gathered over a 23-block area, chants of “Black Power” were followed by the throwing of rocks and Molotov cocktails, bringing more than 300 police and firemen.
Racial tension was high between Cleveland’s police and African American community. The arrival of police precipitated gunfire, as well as brick-throwing by angry residents. The police shot out some street lights and asked drivers to turn off their car lights to limit possible targets by snipers.
Joyce Arnett, a black 26-year-old mother of three, was shot dead when she called from a window, as she was trying to get permission to go home and check on her children.
The next day, Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes activated 1,600 local members of the National Guard, but they did not arrive in Cleveland until 11:00 p.m. The Hough area became quiet after the troops were deployed. An attempt by Cleveland Mayor Ralph S. Locher to limit potential violence by closing local bars and taverns at 6:00 p.m. did not succeed. Arsonists attacked abandoned houses and commercial buildings.
Percy Giles, a black 38-year-old divorced father of two, became the second victim of the violence. He was shot and killed while on his way to help a friend protect his business. In all, 77 people were arrested that night. Fire alarms kept firemen busy through the night.
On the third night of violence, the heavy presence of police and guardsmen helped push the rioting to the southern and northeastern parts of the area. Five people were wounded, including a woman and her two young children.
On the fourth night, Sam Winchester, a 54-year-old black man, was killed while walking to a bus stop. While he lay dying, Winchester told police that he had been shot by whites who targeted him from a passing vehicle.
As the uprising was winding down, rumors fostered tension in the Mayfield Road-Murray Hill section, known locally as “Little Italy“. Though the section was located some 40 city blocks from the Hough epicenter and already covered by heavy National Guard patrols, Little Italy’s residents had armed themselves and organized a system of patrols. Fears were projected in rumors. There was a rumor of a “sniper” on a roof just outside the neighborhood. When two youths injured themselves by accidentally firing a shotgun, it was reported as “two white boys shot by Negroes”.
A trio of white men shot 29-year-old Benoris Toney, a black man sitting in his car in a nearby Euclid Avenue lumber yard. During the ensuing investigation and trial, triggerman Warren LaRiche claimed that Toney had pointed a gun at them. LaRiche was acquitted of murder charges by an all-white jury on the grounds of self-defense.
Heavy rains on July 24 helped put an end to the violence, though it did nothing to end the animosity between area residents and police. In addition, during the most heated moments of the uprising, Cleveland Chief of Police Richard Wagner had claimed that countless bombs had been built by a Hough area group. Mayor Locher did not support the claim.
During the riots, police and city administrators believed they noticed an increasing level of organization. Police Chief Richard Wagner stated that the rioting of the third night “definitely seemed more organized than the last two nights.” In the later stages of the riot, police were ordered to record out-of-state license numbers to try to identify outside agitators.
The underlying cause of the riot, which occurred during a period of racial riots in major cities across the United States, was a failure by Cleveland city government to address a combination of local issues, resulting in the area’s nickname as “Rough Hough”. Loss of jobs due to restructuring of heavy industry had begun, undercutting the economic gains of many Blacks. The loss of jobs and businesses reduced the city’s tax base and its ability to respond to social needs.
The city had been slow to begin to integrate its police department, which had few black officers. Recently there had been incidents of alleged racially motivatedpolice brutality. As only 165 of Cleveland’s 2,200 police officers were African American, the Black community tended to distrust the police.
Middle-class blacks had begun to move out of the city, as they took advantage of new freedoms in housing due to civil rights legislation. While freedom in housing was positive, the migration of middle-class blacks from the city also meant a loss of density in population, and often a loss of jobs and businesses that had formerly been an integral part of Black neighborhoods.
Persistent poverty and unemployment among those who remained in Hough, an associated high crime rate, and poor living conditions contributed to the rioting. Landlords increasingly lived outside the neighborhood and took little interest in maintaining their properties. The city had no means to enforce maintenance of properties. The area’s tax base began to erode, as did city services.
Earlier in the year, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, who was serving as a commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights, had stated that conditions in the area were “the worst I had seen”. The commission had urged city leaders to be more understanding of the needs of the community, but Cleveland mayor Ralph Locher disputed its findings.
On August 10, 1966, a grand jury reported its findings as to the root causes of the riots. The jury stated:
“The jury finds that the outbreak of lawlessness and disorder was both organized, precipitated and exploited by a relatively small group of trained and disciplined professionals at the business. They were aided and abetted, willingly or otherwise, by misguided people of all ages and colors, many of whom are avowed believers in violence and extremism, and some of whom are either members or officers of the Communist Party.”
Although the findings of the grand jury satisfied many in the city, the editor of the Cleveland Press wrote that its conclusions were “dangerous to believe”…”because once the community assigns the Hough looting, shooting, burning, and hell-raising to a traveling band from Havana or Peking, the door will be open for another riot.”
Another panel, however, determined that the underlying causes of the riots could be found in the social conditions that existed in the ghettos of Cleveland. Many African-American residents in this part of Cleveland believed that the city, state, and Federal government officials were not meeting their needs. It also found that the residents of Little Italy had strong feelings of territoriality and overreacted to rumors of violence, leading to their own murder of an innocent black man.Contemporary historical analyses of the causes of the riot do not find evidence for claims of communist influence.
Bertram Gardner stated that the conclusion of Communist influence was an attempt by city leaders to distance themselves from contributions which they may have made to the conditions precipitating the riot. Extensive investigation by the FBI, Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and U. S. Attorney Merle McCurdy determined that no outside agitators instigated the disorder.
Since the early 1960s, J. Edgar Hoover had directed the FBI to pursue Communist links to the Civil Rights Movement. In the FBI’s annual 1967 annual the FBI persisted in drawing general links between Communists and urban unrest:
“Exploitation of racial unrest in the United States continues to be a major program of the Communists. During the year, the party issued numerous directives through its National Negro Commission instructing members to participate in the civil rights movement and to be alert to the provocation of militant action among Negroes.”
In 1967 the FBI also released a report titled “Report: W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs of America.” In the report, they stated that during the riot in the Hough area of Cleveland, four members of the Du Bois Club, a communist youth organization, were detained by the Ohio National Guard. Communist literature was found in a search of their automobile. Later, two of the four were arrested by Cleveland police and charged with obstructing police officers. In 1967 Phillip Abbot Luce, a former member of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA), published his book “Road to Revolution”, in which he claimed a role by the Communist Party in the Hough Riots, as well as other riots in the United States during the same time period.
Following the arrest in 1968 of several of its leaders on suspicion of instigating a Cleveland-area riot, the Nationalist Party for Self Defense of New Libya was forced to disband. A Cleveland-based Black nationalist organization, Afro Set was considered extremist and violent by the FBI. The FBI was of the opinion that Afro Set “advocated hatred of white people and ‘outside’ authority and had as its main goal the complete takeover and control of Cleveland’s black community.” The FBI therefore considered Afro Set a “threat to the internal security of this country.” 
In December 1970, the FBI initiated a formal investigation of Afro Set based on information that the organization was “making plans to foment[ ] or stimulate[ ] racial disturbances.” Second Superneau Decl. WW 9, 12. In particular, the FBI suspected Afro Set of violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 2383 (rebellion or insurrection), 2384 (seditious conspiracy), and 2385 (advocating overthrow of the government). Contemporary commentators do not attribute Afro Set with a role in sparking the Hough Riots, although it is documented that Afro Set was active in Cleveland at the time.
Ahmed Evans, one of the Afro Set leaders gained publicity in a Wall Street Journal report on racial tensions in Cleveland, published in spring after the Hough riots. The article started “To Ahmed, the high priest of Negro militancy here, the white man is the ‘beast’ to be overcome.” The article continued “He predicts May 9th will be the ‘terrible day’ that the anger of the city’s black ghetto erupts into violence.” Carl Stokes described Evans as a petty hustler who spouted revolutionary nonsense in order to build a following.
The Hough Riots left the community with physical and emotional scars that would take a long time to begin to heal. The stigma of the riots depressed property values for decades below those found in surrounding black neighborhoods. The attempts of residents who remained to redevelop their neighborhood were stymied by public and economic policies that led to further disinvestment.
As in many American inner-cities, both black and white residents fled the area, causing depopulation through the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The riot served as a wake-up call. The Hough Area Development Corporation was formed to stimulate investment in the neighborhood, but it did not survive long. It would take another generation before social and economic forces played out enough for a revival to begin. Not until the late 1990s did the Community Development Corporations (CDCs) begin to play an important role in redevelopment of the neighborhood.
The Hough Riots from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
The HOUGH RIOTS, 18-24 July 1966, were a spontaneous outbreak of violence characterized by vandalism, looting, arson, and sporadic gunfire. Although there had been racial disturbances earlier in the summer, these events proved to be more serious and widespread. The riots were sparked by a dispute over a glass of water at the Seventy-Niners Cafe at Hough Ave. and E. 79th St. on the evening of 18 July, which escalated until the police were unable to deal with the situation. As the crowd grew larger, rock throwing, looting, and vandalism gradually spread throughout the Hough area. The following evening the violence was repeated, with fires set in the area as well as reports of sniper fire.
At the request of Mayor Ralph Locher, the Natl. Guard moved into HOUGH on the morning of 20 July to restore order, and the mayor closed all bars and taverns. After a major fire at Cedar and E. 106th on the 21st, things slowly returned to normal. On Monday, 25 July, those stores in the Hough area that had escaped serious damage reopened, and the Natl. Guard was gradually released from duty. During the riots, 4 people were killed, about 30 were injured, close to 300 were arrested, and approx. 240 fires were reported. There was no evidence that the riots had been planned or controlled by radical groups in Cleveland. However, once they began extremists were in a position to exploit them. The events in Hough were part of a national pattern of racial tension and frustration which produced violence in many parts of the country in 1966.
Michael D. Roberts was a reporter for The Plain Dealer in the 1960s and covered many of the events in that decade including the Vietnam War. He later edited Cleveland Magazine for 17 years.
Cleveland in the 1960s
The 1959 holiday season, the last of the decade, was full of good cheer and spirit, the downtown department stores merry with color, music and the smells of Christmas. Shoppers swarmed the streets, their heads bowed to the cold as they made their way up Euclid Avenue past the array of brightly lit stores.
Children wondered how Santa could be both at May Company and Higbee’s. The giant Christmas tree at the Sterling-Linder-Davis department store was as traditional as the season itself. The restaurants and bars along the avenue were aglow with fellowship that only the holidays can bring.
It was the final hours of a peaceful and generally rewarding decade for Greater Cleveland. No one predicted that the upcoming decade, the 1960s, would be as tumultuous and trying as any the city, or the country, for that matter, would endure.
The decade was only weeks old when a harbinger of bad news appeared. On January 23, the Cleveland News, an institution that traced its heritage to post Civil War days, announced it would cease publication following years of competing for afternoon readers with the dominant Cleveland Press.
The Cleveland Press was no ordinary newspaper and because of the weakness in the two-party political system, Cleveland was no ordinary newspaper town. Under Louis B. Seltzer, the newspaper emerged as the most powerful institution in the region. Picked by Time Magazine as one of the most influential newspapers in America, The Press elected mayors, jailed corrupt public officials, hunted murders and drove the agenda of the city and its citizens.
Seltzer was as much a politician as a journalist. Diminutive in stature, blunt and street smart, he was self-made with minimal formal education. He reigned as the most powerful force in the city for a quarter of a century. He was a man whose vision did not eclipse the next election.
While no one realized it, the demise of the News marked the initial toll of the bell for The Press itself, as its death would take place 21 years later. By 1960, television news was coming of age, and a circuitous highway system was opening a burgeoning suburban sprawl. Afternoon newspapers could no longer reach the spreading population before the six o’clock news.
By the fall of 1960, it seemed as if the whole of America was changing. The election of John F. Kennedy brought a vitality to politics that heralded a new era not only in Washington but across the nation. Cleveland was destined to be a major player in that change, even though it would be a painful change.
More than 25 years had passed without any major development or repair to Cleveland’s infrastructure. The city suffered through the Great Depression and during World War II focused its energy on the war effort. Its housing stock was decaying and many of its neighborhoods were overcrowded.
In a massive effort to rejuvenate Cleveland, the government embarked on six urban renewal projects. The city’s business community hailed the effort and focused on the downtown piece of the project, Erieview.
In concert with urban renewal, a highway system planned as early as 1927 and spurred by the Eisenhower Administration’s federal interstate program was progressing. Transportation was a constant theme in and around Cleveland with a rapid transit system being the key to the development of Shaker Heights in the 1920s.
Together these two efforts—urban renewal and the transportation system—would be largely responsible for the consistent drain of population from the central city.
At the time, the urban renewal projects constituted the largest such effort in America. Critics accused Seltzer of promoting Erieview to benefit a new location for his newspaper. The scope and shape of urban renewal would severely affect the city’s East Side and cause one official in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to later say Cleveland was the agency’s Vietnam because it was so deeply mired in a losing effort.
Meanwhile, on the city’s West Side adjacent to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, a group of scientists and engineers worked secretly and industriously to ensure that an American would be the first to set foot on the moon.
A federal aeronautical research laboratory was built in 1941 at the airport to develop aircraft engines and test fuels during World War II. Later, it experimented with jet engines, rockets and exotic fuels. In the 1950s, a handful of engineers quietly began to experiment with liquid hydrogen.
The laboratory, known as the Lewis Research Center, part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, was an obscure facility, until October of 1957 when the Russians orbited Sputnik, the first man-made satellite. The launching of the satellite at the height of the Cold War shot panic through the U.S. government.
There was an obvious need for a new government organization to take on the challenge of the looming space race. Because of their work with fuels and rockets, a Lewis team headed by its director, Abe Silverstein, authored a memorandum used by the Eisenhower administration as the foundation for the creation of the new space agency.
The first director of NASA was T. Keith Glennan, the president of Case Tech University in Cleveland. Silverstein was the architect of what would be the Mercury and the Apollo programs that resulted in the moon landing in July of 1969. Sadly, Washington politics involving NASA and its budget ultimately dealt Lewis a short hand and made Houston the center of the space program.
In Cleveland politics, a transition was taking place as President Kennedy selected Mayor Anthony J. Celebrezze to his cabinet, as head of the Department of Health, Welfare, and Education. Celebrezze served as mayor from 1953 to 1962, a generally prosperous and tranquil time for the city, high-lighted by highway construction, all of which would lead away from the city.
Celebrezze was promoted and prodded by The Press and he did much of the newspaper’s bidding, particularly when it came to the ambitious, but flawed downtown redevelopment plans. Celebrezze was a mayor in a tradition of ethnic politics that governed from city hall since the early 1940s and answered to The Cleveland Press.
These politics represented a philosophy of indifference to which there was no statute of limitations. With its strong Middle European roots, the electorate was mistrustful of progressive government.
Appointed to replace Celebrezze was Ralph J. Locher, the city’s law director, a taciturn man described by those who served with him as decent and pleasant, known for his integrity and honesty. He was no administrator, however, and no match for what would befall the city in his time. One councilman that served with him said Locher had the demeanor of a college president rather than that of a big city mayor.
Locher’s inadequate administrative skills and his links to a dying political past became obvious over time compounding an already relentless series of issues that had been ignored for decades and was now playing out in a destructive confluence.
The mayor inherited a troubled city, the depths of which were evident to those who examined the realities confronting urban life. As the decade advanced, skepticism began to build around the massive renewal project that began with such grandeur and was slowly proving to be a profound gaffe.
An intrusive interlude to life in Greater Cleveland was a lengthy newspaper strike that began late in 1962 and ended the next spring that was costly to both newspapers. Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, timed the firing of the team’s legendary coach, Paul Brown, with the strike hoping the news blackout would blunt one of the biggest sports stories here ever.
The Browns won the 1964 National Football League Championship, but Modell would never replicate Paul Brown’s achievements.
While sports had its moments in the 1960s, urban renewal continued in the headlines. Erieview was an area boarded by E. 6th Street and extended to East 17th Street and south to Chester Avenue and north to the lake. It was filled with small businesses and modest homes. These buildings were cleared, leaving vast stretches of acreage available for redevelopment.
The result was the displacement of people and businesses in such a fashion that it affected the commerce on Euclid Avenue, a stretch of upscale shops, stores and restaurants that had been a traditional haunt of downtown shoppers. Over time, the combination of bad downtown planning and the creation of suburban malls aided by one of the best highway systems in the country, diminished downtown.
There were problems with other areas of the city designated for urban renewal. The process was driving people, mostly black people, into neighborhoods that were over crowded and filled with inadequate housing.
In the area around St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital, some 1,200 families were up- rooted and moved to the Hough area, itself designated for renewal. Hough was notable for its overcrowded conditions for black families.
In fact, the city did its best to ignore these conditions almost from the very beginning of black migration during the Civil War era.
While historically Cleveland had a reputation of racial tolerance, its liberalism flagged as European immigrants arrived and settled making the town a mosaic of ethnicity that became ingrained in its politics and culture.
Cleveland also attracted southern blacks hoping for a better life. Two world wars within the span of two decades hastened that journey as the industrial might of the city was geared to war production and needed as much manpower as it could absorb. The Korean War soon followed, maintaining the manufacturing need.
There were about 10,000 blacks living in Cleveland just before World War I. By the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 that figure had grown to 72,000 and by 1940 it had reached 85,000. By 1960, there were 250,000 blacks living mostly on the city’s East Side.
The city was not prepared to deal with this increasing influx of newcomers in terms of housing and schools. As time passed, both necessities degenerated further. By the early 1960s, the city was at a tipping point, but most were oblivious to the growing storm.
By 1960, jobs were still easily found for blacks, especially those in the steel mills where the money was good, but the work dirty, dangerous and damnable. Federal government jobs as postal workers, clerks and other official tasks were steady employment. There were positions available for teachers, social workers and lawyers.
Blacks were increasingly part of the community’s fabric. By 1963, ten of the 33 city council seats were black. However, beneath the surface existed an unspoken demarcation that separated the minorities from the rest of the community. As late as 1959, The Cleveland Press carried a page one story concerning downtown office space in which a respected realtor was quoted as saying, he would not rent to Negros because they were too messy.
There were few black newspaper reporters. Editors routinely asked whether an incident or event took place, “at a good address”. Black crime was often ignored as not being newsworthy. Reporters covering the police beat told editors of the conditions they witnessed in black neighborhoods, but could draw little interest in reporting on them.
Simply stated, the community had no sensitivity as to what was happening in the over crowded slums and the inadequate and aging East Side schools. Even though these conditions festered for years, it seemed to the community at large that the ensuing discontent occurred overnight.
This was because of the nature of ethnic politics that drove city hall for years, and the failure of the news media to play its roll in communicating reality to the community. Politicians knew its ethnic constituency possessed a heritage distrustful of government and the best way to appeal to that instinct was to embrace the status quo.
The racial story broke in a series of confrontations between black students and their ethnic counterparts in those neighborhoods that abutted each other. Protests over the conditions in the schools became regular events. Some black students were going to school half a day in makeshift classrooms in the basement of churches.
Nationally, Martin Luther King was beginning a cavalcade of civil rights protests that ignited the imagination of blacks across the nation. He was no stranger to Cleveland, visiting often with his message. Times were changing, and no place exhibited that dynamic greater than Cleveland.
This was the situation that Ralph S. Locher inherited as mayor. In a belated effort, the Cleveland City School District began a building program with an emphasis on East Side schools, which some civil rights activists saw as an effort to further segregate the city.
One of the dreadful moments of the decade took place on April 7, 1964. It involved the growing conflict over education and the ensuing tragedy rocked the community. Protesting the construction of an elementary school on Lakeview Road, Reverend Bruce Klunder lay in the path of a bulldozer and was accidentally crushed to death. The incident divided the community even further and photographs of the scene became a symbol of the agony of the times.
In the wake of this tragedy, the Interracial Business Men’s Committee was formed, bringing together black and white business leaders with a stake in the community together in an effort to alleviate the growing conflict and solve the contributing irritants. The effort provided temporary relief as more blacks were hired by business and a community relations department was established at city hall.
As days passed, the news focused more and more on racial issues. The media showed a willingness, albeit naively, to explore the problem that had been evident for decades. One newspaper ran a series of articles on the life of a black family.
Newspaper readers in the summer of 1965 drew some respite from the city’s woes when a Plain Dealer copy editor, Robert Manry, sailed the Atlantic Ocean alone in a 13-foot boat, the smallest vessel ever to cross the sea at the time. As he progressed his 78-day adventure was played out daily resulting in The Press scooping the morning paper on its own story by publishing a television interview of Manry in the midst of the ocean.
The man-against-the-odds story was in strange contrast to the odds-against-man story with which the city was struggling to confront or at least to contain in what was becoming an increasingly tension- ridden existence.
The mayoral election of 1965 was a contest of black and white and the past and future as Mayor Locher chose to run for his own two-year term, but this time his chief opponent would not come from the ranks of traditional ethnic politics. He would be a black man, Carl B. Stokes, who successfully ran as the first minority state legislator from Cuyahoga County.
In many ways, Stokes was the perfect candidate for the times. Handsome, articulate, a confident man, edgy in temperament, the representative of a cause whose time had come, he stepped into the campaign believing that he could make a difference both for his people and for Cleveland.
One of the characteristics of his confidence was a sense of arrogance that could be repelling. In 1965 Stokes failed to ask for support of the ten black city council members for his mayoralty bid. It was not that they opposed him, it was a matter of protocol. Stokes for his part thought he could win without asking for help.
He did not win. The newspapers backed the old politics and won the day as Locher triumphed by 2, 143 votes, the slimmest victory in the city’s history. The Press predicted a 20,000 win for Locher. Stokes impressed the reporters covering the race and he later would say that this campaign was the highlight of his political life.
The victory was Pyrrhic for Locher as events in the city continued to spiral out of control. After years of neglect the city and its services deteriorated, despite the late efforts to fix a failing school system. Education remained a primary issue, and the now apparent folly of urban renewal had come together like a Greek tragedy to generate a violent encore
Meanwhile, another important story broke in 1966 when the U.S. Supreme Court held that Dr. Sam Sheppard, who had been convicted of the murder of his wife in a famous case in 1954, was subjected to unfair pretrial publicity by The Press. Sheppard was ordered released from prison and given a new trial. He was later acquitted.
The news damaged the reputation of The Press at a time when The Plain Dealer was attempting to surpass it in both circulation and civic leadership. The court decision cast a shadow on The Press and gave the morning newspaper the appearance of greater credibility, and in an odd way, this would come to bear on the campaign.
It was oppressively hot July 18 that summer of 1966. At 5 p.m. outside of the Seventy-Niner’s Café on the corner of East 79th and Hough Avenue a crowd gathered. The heat made it a bad time to drink. The bar, owned by two white brothers, had problems with its clientele. Someone had tried to burn their car a few days before and a cherry bomb was exploded in the men’s room.
Tensions were high.
A young woman identified by some as a prostitute, was in the crowded bar soliciting money for flowers for the funeral of another streetwalker. One of the owners ordered her out of the bar and she joined the crowd outside, angry at her dismissal.
A man who purchased a bottle of wine was refused a glass of water by one of the brothers. His anger provoked, he joined the crowd claiming he had been called a nigger. The crowd began to swell in size and emotion.
Police were summoned, but it was too late. All the frustration and conflict of the past welled up in one wild rampage that swept through the Hough area in a violent torrent. Shops were looted, fires set, the sound of gunfire resounded through the neighborhood. The scene resembled street fighting on the television news in some far-off land.
Looters roamed the streets with a strange sense of glee, pushing racks of stolen clothes and carrying bundles of goods. The best the police could do was to take photographs of the looters and hope to identify them later.
Locher waited and finally, reluctantly asked the Ohio National Guard to intercede in what became a six-day siege of the Hough neighborhood. Four residents were killed and some 240 fires were set. The blame for the violence rested on overcrowding and the failure of the urban renewal program to provide relief from conditions in Hough.
The sight of military vehicles mounting heavy weapons moving through the city streets was eerie and disturbing. Guardsmen were crouched in doorways, their rifles at ready, scanning the rooftops for snipers in the night.
Despite its obvious cause, a county grand jury comprised of some of the town’s most respected citizens, and led by Seltzer, found that the riot was instigated by a conspiracy organized by outsiders, maybe even Communists. There still existed a sense of denial among the city’s leadership as to the true conditions of the city.
Tragic as it was, Hough was the event that would propel Carl B. Stokes into City Hall and the annals of history.
The Hough riot shook the city’s business leaders, cast a cloak of fear over the town and brought more negative national media to a city already suffering from cynical reviews. White people feared driving through the East Side and blacks dared not venture near the Murray Hill area. There were random shootings and some killing, including an ambush of a policeman on the East Side.
The mood at city hall was sullen. Community leaders lost faith in the ability of Ralph Locher to run the city and deal with the overwhelming problems that were mounting daily. But it was not just Cleveland. The nation’s major cities were facing racial unrest with rioters taking to the streets elsewhere.
It did not help when the Cleveland officer testifying before a state legislative committee, urged that the death penalty be applied to rioting black nationals. The tension between the city’s police force and the black community lingered for years.
All the sins committed by city hall over the past decades suddenly came to rest on Locher. The Plain Dealer that stood so gray and idle while The Press dictated to city hall for years, lashed out critically and rendered frustration and wrath on its competitor through the Locher administration.
To make matters worse, the federal government cut $10-million of the city’s urban renewal funds leaving the already embattled program adrift. It was evident to everyone that Locher’s term as mayor was fading into failure.
The national media became so negative in its portrayal of Cleveland that Locher refused to meet with another out of town reporter.
It was also evident that the performance Carl Stokes made in the 1965 campaign elevated him to a level where victory, while not probable, was certainly more than possible. This time Stokes actively sought support, not only from the black councilman, but from the business community as well.
The 1967 mayor’s race was perhaps the most memorable and remarkable in the city’s history. Not only was the first black mayor of a major American city elected, the drama and excitement of that campaign generated world-wide attention. Reporters from every major news outlet in the world descended on Cleveland creating a genuine global event.
A signal and surprising moment in the campaign came with the endorsement of Stokes by The Plain Dealer, an act he considered legitimatized him among the white establishment. It was an important moment for the newspaper as well, for it symbolized its ascension over the rival Press.
The business community stung by the ineptness of the Locher administration and fearful of more racial unrest, pumped money and influence into the Stokes campaign. Some observers feared that the business leaders were so anxious to rid the city of Locher, that it would support Stokes in the primary and then back a white candidate in the general election.
Reporters followed Stokes in his forays into the white West Side where he met in small gatherings over coffee asking for support, urging that the issue of race be cast aside in favor of enlightened leadership in city hall. He handily defeated a subdued Locher in the Democratic primary.
Poised to oppose Stokes was Seth Taft, a Republican with one of the most prominent political names in Ohio history, and a descendent of a U.S. president. Seth Taft was regarded in the community as honest, dedicated and active, but most importantly he was white.
While both candidates tried to remain above the race issue, it smoldered in the background threatening to burst into full flame at any moment. Race would be the deciding factor, but it did not mar the campaign.
The campaign itself was exciting and interesting, unlike any since. Both camps exhibited well-run political organizations. A series of debates between the candidates held in various parts of the city were set-piece battles while reporters pontificated on the victor.
Stokes was the superior orator, but Taft improved as the campaign progressed and showed surprising and increasing aggressiveness. As the election day approached, the polls showed the two candidates neck and neck. The town was alive with speculation and anticipation.
Election day was cold, with flecks of wet snow. There was a question of the turnout. A huge voter registration drive, largely funded by a $175,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, worked the neighborhoods in the months preceding the election. The question was whether the voters would respond?
Representatives of the global media roamed the city that day, studying the turnout which was not only large, but electric in mood. Despite the issue of race, there was a wholesome quality to the campaign, two excellent candidates locked in a struggle that personified democracy. People sensed history in the making and wanted to be part of it.
The early returns that night had Taft ahead, but by 9 p.m. the race was neck and neck. And then at midnight, Taft began to pull away. At 2:15 a.m. Stokes took his first lead and held on to win by some 2,000 votes in the closest race in city history.
The succeeding weeks and months were filled with an optimism that Cleveland had not experienced in years. A feeling of achievement abounded, and while only 15% of white voters had supported Stokes, there existed an atmosphere of elation, a sense of genuine community.
Stokes had little time to celebrate. The conditions that contributed to his election were now his problems to solve. The first issue was the quality of personnel serving the city. After so many years of patronage the various departments were larded with political hacks that contributed to city hall’s ineptness. He attacked the problem with vigor.
Despite its aimlessness, the urban renewal program had to be regenerated and Stokes persuaded Washington to restore the funding. He then hired a director with national experience as part of assembling an energetic and capable cabinet. Urban experts from other cities were eager to come to Cleveland and participate in the city’s rebirth.
Meanwhile, the business community, swept by euphoria, raised $5.5 million and created an organization to support many of the Stokes initiatives called Cleveland: NOW. The idea born out of a swelling sense of community pride and necessity, ironically would become fickle and turn on Stokes in the meanest way.
Cleveland: NOW! was created by several white businessmen following the assassination of Martin Luther King in April of 1968. The nation was in turmoil over King’s death and that of Robert F. Kennedy in June. Adding to the domestic anxiety was the stalemate in Vietnam and the increasing protest of that war.
These angry forces were mounting across the nation as demonstrators and militants exercised their wrath in the streets. In Cleveland, civic leaders hoped that a black mayor possessed the ability to calm their community. Stokes maintained that a black mayor was no insurance against racial violence.
Fred Ahmed Evans, a Korean War veteran, became an astrologer of sorts after claiming to witness a UFO over Glenville one day. While known in the neighborhood as somewhat of a militant, he was an obscure figure until catapulted to notoriety by The Wall Street Journal that wrote Evans had predicted the outbreak of a race riot in Cleveland.
Evans portrayed himself as a black revolutionary, a man who called for a national black revolt and used his incendiary rhetoric to inflame ghetto youth. Stokes later characterized Evans as a street hustler who used the idea of revolution to extort money. Cleveland: NOW! gave Evans $6,000 to fund a youth group.
In the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination, Evans, among other black militants, walked Cleveland’s streets with Stokes to calm the anguish which was spreading across the nation and creating violence in other cities.
On July 23, 1968, Evans and some of his self-proclaimed revolutionaries engaged in a gun battle with Cleveland police that left seven dead including three police officers, three suspected militants and a citizen. Fifteen more were wounded, and the Glenville community suffered more than $2.5 million in damage.
It was never clear what triggered the shooting. Evans was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison where he died.
The shoot-out made headlines even in war-torn Vietnam. It also destroyed the myth that a black mayor could prevent the spread of racial violence. It also effectively damaged the mayoralty of Stokes when it was learned that Cleveland: NOW! money was used by Evans to buy guns.
The irony was that one calamitous event aided Stokes’ political rise and yet another would accompany his decline. He was proof that there were no easy answers to the city’s racial problems.
In 1969, Stokes was elected to a second two-year term as mayor, but the heady days, bright with promise and alive with community spirit were gone. He struggled with the reform of the police department, a culture of its own, only to have his attempted reforms and innovations go awry or fail.
That summer, men landed on the moon and the triumphant national celebration that followed underplayed the achievements of a handful of space pioneers at the Lewis Research Laboratory that came at a time when it appeared America had lost its technological edge. It was no small thing that these men on the West Side of the city achieved.
Back at city hall, the newspapers became increasingly critical of Stokes, who bridled at the criticism, making the tenor of his final term one of rancor and bitterness over failed expectations. He left city hall in 1971 to become a television anchorman in New York City.
Among Stokes’ lasting achievements as mayor was the passage of an equal opportunity law that assured minority companies of participation in city business. While there had been no public housing units built in the five years before he became mayor, he could point to nearly 5,500 built during his term in office.
The Stokes years were significant in the city’s history in that they opened the way for the black community to participate in the mainstream of business and political life. The decade brought change in how a city worked and what roles black citizens played in that function. In retrospect, it is clear that the community and Stokes himself set expectations that were far from achievable given the times and the state of the city.
It was an exhausting decade for Cleveland and its citizens, but when it was over there were triumphs among the travail. Life went on, but it was changed forever.
The holiday season of 1969, the last of the decade, was not as festive as that of ten years before. The city had endured pain brought on by decades of neglect wrought by a political culture that worshipped the status quo. The next decade would bring more change and a different dynamic, but this would involve the appearance of the city, and the dimming of downtown lights. The altering of its soul had taken place.
Campell, Thomas F. and Miggins, Edward M., The Birth of Modern Cleveland 1865-1930, Cleveland, Ohio Western Reserve Society, London and Toronto: Associated University Presses.
Glennan, T. Keith The Birth of NASA: The Diary of T. Keith Glennan Washington, D.C., National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA History Office. 1993.
Dawson, Virginia P., Engines and Innovation: Lewis Laboratory and American Propulsion Technology, Washington, D.C. National Aeronautics and Space Administration Office of Management Scientific and Technical Information Division, 1991.
Stokes, Carl B. Promises of Power: Then and Now Cleveland, Ohio Published by The Friends of Carl B. Stokes, 1989.
Moore, Leonard M., Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power, Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 2002.
Porter, Philip W, Cleveland: Confused City on a Seesaw, Columbus, The Ohio State Press, 1975.
Van Tassel, David D. and Grabowski, John J., The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History,
Bloomington, Indiana University Press in association with Case Western Reserve University. 1987.
Bartimole, Roldo, Point of View
Rose, William Ganson Cleveland: The Making of a City Kent, Ohio The Kent State University Press in cooperation with Western Reserve Historical Society 1990
Hough: Building and Tension
by Luke Ondish
Hough was annexed by the city of Cleveland in 1872. It is 2 square miles in area bounded by Euclid and Superior on its North and South sides and E 55th and E 105th on its West and East Sides. The summer of 1966 would see Hough in flames. Arson and looting were rampant, a martial law imposed by mobs walking the streets. Those that sought to escape the danger of the riots could count on no protection while policemen would seem to attack at random. The four day race riot would cost the city millions of dollars in damage and several lives. Though in 1950 Hough was still a predominately white middle class neighborhood, by 1960 the story was very different1. It used to be a fashionable neighborhood, known for its large single-family homes, wherein its residents lived comfortably. The streets were busy, but pleasantly so; it was not the overcrowded, deteriorated neighborhood that would eventually exploded into violence.
The neighborhood would become overcrowded. The community would become divided. Eventually, it would not be able to support itself, and it would break. The economic, political, and social, and geographic factors responsible for Hough’s decline, irritated by a lapsing post-war economy give rise to a cyclical dynamic taking the neighborhood on a downward spiral. The combination of deterioration and division in the community would irritate each other until Hough could take no more.
After the stock market crash of 1929, Cleveland was subject to the same destitution as other cities across the nation. Also like other cities, it rebounded in the war time economy of World War II. The city’s factories produced planes, tanks, artillery, bombs, binoculars, and telescopes for the war effort. The city enjoyed a stable industrial base as a producer of machine tools, electrical goods, and metal products. It had a large supply of trained workers, low-cost power and water, and was located within 500 miles of half the population of the United States.
Cleveland’s war time population swelled with ranks of Appalachian whites and southern blacks traveling to the city for work in the factories. Homes that once housed single families were made to accommodate several, beginning the pattern of overuse and overcrowding. The problem would worsen when the factories would close and returning servicemen would be eager to start families. Many families were forced to move where housing was cheapest2.
The once owner-occupied buildings in Hough were bought up by outsiders as the former owners passed away. Living away from the community, the new owners would have less incentive to fix them and make them more livable. The housing grew old and suffered a lack of maintenance. Many tenants could ill afford to move out of dilapidated housing. Often several families had to share converted single-family dwellings. These factors thus enacted a sort of skimming off the top of the economic ladder. Those that could afford to do so moved to better kept areas. With Hough’s population having less money, the tax based was significantly reduced. The area could not afford to shift its course, and by 1960 was in need of reform3.
Geographically, Hough was disadvantaged. Hough Street, the area’s main artery for traffic, was constantly congested. Lake shore traffic would find its way in along Crawford Avenue, which intersected Hough Street. Busy streets in themselves are not inherently bad for neighborhoods, but Hough ran right through the middle of the most concentrated residential districts. It is common that main arteries form boundaries. Cutting the districts in half like this greatly diminished the sense of unity felt by residents of the districts. This made communities much harder to mobilize for their common interests4.
With very little land left undeveloped, overcrowding in Hough’s residential buildings had little hope of relief by expansion. Industry was also impeded from growth because of this. When new space was required, industry had to settle where it could. Many small outcroppings of industry were scattered along and among residential districts. Such settlements would bring more traffic to neighborhoods, as well as noise, fumes, and dust. This contributed to the deterioration of living conditions5.
Hough has a favorable location within the city. It is twenty minutes by bus from the heart of Cleveland’s business and industrial district, ten minutes from what then was Western Reserve and Case Universities as well as surrounding museums, and fifteen minutes from Lake Erie. It was the organization and layout within the neighborhood that was problematic. Without and official local government, matters had to be seen to by local community leaders. With the diminished sense of community due to the splitting of the residential districts, motivation for projects was lacking6. Thus, the first cyclical dynamic is revealed.
Hough was also reflecting a need economically. Unemployment was high and 30% of heads of households were not employed. The rate of unskilled non-white heads of households was 16.7, while the rate for whites was 4.2. One third of the unemployed population was concentrated in the southeast corner7. Along with the fact that 60% of the residents in the northwest and southeast parts of Hough were white while the area from the southwest to northeast is over 60% non-white, there is evidence for further division in the community8. The different racial categories live apart from each other and in different economic conditions, the former reinforcing the alienation that can be felt from the latter.
The percentage of semi-skilled and unskilled workers in two tracts (L-3 and L-4) adjacent to each other out of the ten census tracts comprising Hough was 69.2. Tracts R-6 and R-9 had a rate of 51.8%. L-2 and L-4 have high rates of unemployment. These tracts are the most densely populated. This suggests a wide range of lifestyles within areas of concentrated population and groups of occupation types. This is a factor than can create dissonance in a community and make it harder to come together to realize goals.
The rate of self employed males in 1950 was five percent. By the late 50s, it had dropped to 1.5. This is evidence that the economy could not support as many businesses, and those that would otherwise start their own business were forced to work for a larger operation. This severity of this figure is greater when it is considered that the population during that time also grew by 10 percent. Even though the population grew, the economy was shrinking, stretching the financial resources of Hough very thin.
Not only did different races have large percents with different types of jobs, but large percents of each race’s constituents worked in different areas. Most of the working population of Hough worked on the East side of Cleveland. However, the difference in the amount of white and non-white heads of household that work in East Cleveland was statistically significant. Seventy Seven percet of non-white heads of household held jobs there compared to the 82.7% of white heads of household9. The authority figures of the homes, those that would be most influential in how other members (especially children) view others, have fewer opportunities to interact with each other. This loss limits the ability of persons from different backgrounds to combat the barriers that make relating to each other more difficult to begin with, constituting another fragmenting cycle.
The division between communities was strong was considering social and cultural factors. Two determining factors of differing social classes are occupation and education of populations. The difference in types of occupations held by persons in different areas was significant. In areas of concentrated white populations the rate of employed persons in sales, clerical, professional and managerial positions was 36.6. In areas of concentrated non-white populations the figure was 19.3%.
Irritating the division amongst communities in post-war industrial cities is an alienation felt towards the rest of the county. An attitude of “we helped you in war, now where are you when we need help?” proliferates. This attitude gives populations an insular mindset. They believe that their possible reality consists only of the deterioration surrounding them, and no one is interested in their well being any longer.
The rate of persons over the age of 25 having some college education was 21.3% in white areas, while the average figure for all of the tracts in Hough was just over 10. There is a significant statistical difference between the education level and occupation type of whites and non-whites. This shows that social class was likely to be divided along racial line. Because of this the difference would feel more distinct, and the boundaries more daunting to breach10.
A substantial factor in the drawing of social and cultural boundaries are the rates of involvement and apparent investment in the community. It was found that non-whites have a much higher rate of membership to local organizations. This could mean a group connected to the church, a fraternal organization, or what is predominant, a labor union.11
On average, whites were much more likely to have plans to move. The most extreme example of this is the tract L-4, from which 61.1% of whites as opposed to 16.2% of non-whites had plans to move. It was also recorded that non-whites were twice as likely as whites to buy a house.
Another factor which correlates with investment in a community is relatives that also inhabit the area. The percentage of whites with relatives living in Hough was 38.2. The percentage of non-whites who shared the area with relatives was 60.5. A larger percentage of white persons had relatives outside of Hough than non-whites. Many more whites than non-whites also had no relatives in Cleveland.12
In 1960, half of the population of the Hough was no longer there13. Ninety percent of the non-whites had lived there for five or less years, while roughly 60% of whites had lived there for as long. With a great bulk of the population having spent less than five years in the area, very few families were likely to have any kind of history with Hough14. Less familiarity leaves more room for apathy of citizens for a community, which would decrease investment in the communities. Further evidence of a lack investment in communities is the frequent withdrawal from and enrollment in new schools of high school age students.
At the start of the 1960s, Addison Junior High School faced a major concern in locating and counseling in-migrant students (a term whose definition subsumes any student who moved into the school system 2 or less years ago) to help them adapt to the new environment. With most students possessing an average of a third grade reading level, students needed all of the attention that could possibly be given to them. This was very difficult to accommodate due to the unstable conditions in which the students lived at home in areas of high crime and divorce rates. Addison was fed by the area making up Police Zone 531, recognized as leading the city of Cleveland in terms of crime rate, and murder rate specifically15.
When polled about how they felt toward their neighborhood, 62% of non-whites said they thought Hough was a good place to raise children. Only 27% of whites agreed. Roughly a quarter of these dissenters cited “poor race situation” as their reason, in reference to the disproportionate amount of non-white residents. The boundary implied here is also reflected in the fact that a greater portion of non-whites allow their children to play outside of the home than whites.
Along more cultural lines, there was also a religious boundary. The majority of whites were Catholic, while the majority of non-whites were Baptists. It is likely that this difference was accounted for mostly by the fact that most new non-white families(and most non-white were new) had moved up from the southern parts of the country. These families came to Cleveland hoping to leave behind the South’s caste system-like conventions for a better chance at a better job. However most were quick to realize that northern whites frequently held the same perceptions of caste.16
Leisure time that was not given to local organizations was frequently conducive to solitariness, at least between small areas if not families or even individuals. The three most common leisure time activities were watching television, reading, and fixing up the house. Over three quarters of the population was recorded in a census as watching television every day.17
Politically, Hough also finds itself in a difficult place. Hough itself does not have a local government. The name is used to refer to a collection of neighborhoods rather than any political unit. Therefore it must rely on larger city government if it hopes for political recourse. Many blacks already had this predilection toward larger government because benefits that could be sought if income was low were issued by federal government.
This dynamic situated blacks to swim against a political current. Many government officials tended to see a mass appeal to government for economic support as evocative of federalized health care programs common to socialism and the sort of big statism that would become highly stigmatized as the decade progressed. The Cold War sentiments afloat in the government served as an unfortunate and detrimental context in which to seek political recourse. A further impediment was that in the elections immediately preceding the 1960s, blacks had voted against giving more power to the city government that could help them. Many feared the dilution of power that could be gained by the formation of smaller organizations within the community.
Ralph Besse, owner of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, was a businessman and philanthropy advocate that helped organizations such as the United Freedom Movement and the Citizens United for Adequate Welfare with ideas for the community. In a speech given to the Rotary Club of Cleveland, Besse showed great insight into the city’s political climate. He would say that blacks deserved to be free from discrimination, and most white business would admit to this. It was evident, however, that whites had great difficulty overcoming prejudices because many would wait until a situation became bad enough that self interest and practical rather than moral concerns would motivate them to promote change. Even then, the change pushed for was limited and gradual.
The Greater Cleveland Association Foundation would pay heed to Besse’s words. They attempted to seek recourse through philanthropy but found difficulty communicating with the black community. Cleveland Metropolitan Services was commissioned to perform a study of the black community. The study, however, failed to touch on issues of great concern such as housing. The lack of communication is probably due to the fact that blacks were failed to be invited to the initial meetings of the study. Yet another inefficiency of the GACF was evidenced by sentiments expressed by several members at a meeting. This is best represented by a statement one was quoted giving: “these trustees of Cleveland Foundation funds and these advisors always worry about what some dead man wanted us to do with his money.”18
The political sphere faces difficulty in providing neighborhoods with needed funding. This only adds to the disillusion of these neighborhoods’ residents, cementing their mentalities in modes of division and helplessness. On July 18th of 1966 the tension in Hough became too great and race riots broke out. The incident that sparked the riot was a dispute in which a white worker refused to serve a black patron a glass of water at a café along Hough Street. An argument ensued and before long escalated to the point where police could not prevent conflict. Rock throwing, looting, vandalism and arson spread throughout the Hough area, and repeated the following evening. On the evening of the 20th, the National Guard was called in to quell the violence. By the time the riots were completely subdued on the 25th, 4 people had been killed, approximately 30 had been injured and 300 arrested after over 240 fires had been reported.19
1 “Hough” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History CWRU. 20 Nov. 2005 <http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=H6>.
2 Keating, W. D., Norman Krumholz, and David C. Perry, Cleveland: A Metropolitan Reader Kent, Ohio: Kent State UP, 1995, 32
3 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 14-17.
4 6″Summary of the Preliminary Plan for the Hough Community” Cleveland, Ohio: City Planing Commission, 1957, 2.
5 “Summary of the Preliminary Plan for the Hough Community” Cleveland, Ohio: City Planing Commission, 1957, 5.
6 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 42.
7 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 41.
8 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 13.
9 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 42-43.
10 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 35-36.
11 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 59.
12 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 9-10.
13 “Hough” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History CWRU. 20 Nov. 2005 <http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=H6>.
14 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 9-10.
15 “Great Cities – Grey Areas Program” Cleveland, Ohio: Hough Community Project, 1960, 3-4.
16 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 29.
17 Sussman, Marvin B., and R. C. White, Hough, Cleveland, Ohio: A Study of Social Life and Change Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Western Reserve University, 1959, 64.
18 Rose, Kenneth W., The Politics of Social Reform in Cleveland, 1945-1967 : Civil Rights, Welfare Rights, and the Response of Civic Leaders Cleveland, Ohio: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1988, 226-32.
19 “The Hough Riots” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History CWRU 20 Nov. 2005 <http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=HR3>.
Article on the Hough riots from CWRU
Hough Riots: The Aftermath
by Brigette Bencoe
The predominately black Hough neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, encompasses the area between Euclid Avenue and Superior Avenue (running east and west), and East 55th and East 105th (running north and south). On Monday, July 18th, 1966, a disagreement occurred between a white cafe owner and the black community of the Hough neighborhood. This disagreement led to a state of violence and turmoil in the area that lasted until the Cleveland National Guard restored order a week later. This week-long period of civil disorder in Cleveland history was remembered as the Hough Riots. The Hough Riots was considered “one of the most serious outbreaks of civil disorder in the city’s history” 1 .
The aftermath of the riots produced activism from residents and leaders alike in Cleveland. The Hough neighborhood had the potential for improvement with the creation of the urban renewal programs Cleveland NOW!, Hough Area Development Corp (HADC), Special Impact Program funded by Office of Equal Opportunity, and the Neighborhood Youth Corp. The recently elected African American Mayor, Carl Stokes, represented a fresh start for the city and its black population. However, implementation of the urban renewal programs often fell short of proposed goals due to sparse funds, fraudulent practices and disorganization. Racial tensions seemed to escalate and result in more violence. Mayor Stokes was unable to achieve much success after the riots due to the problematic state of the Hough slum and continued racial violence. Progress to improve Hough was counteracted by the shortcomings of urban renewal programs, the escalation of racial violence, and the absence of affective results from Carl Stokes.
The Seventy-Niners’ Cafe located on the corner of East 79th street and Hough Avenue was an establishment owned by a white man named Dave Feigenbaum, who has been known to discriminate against, and often times refuse service to, Hough’s black community. On July 18, 1966, at the Seventy-Niners’ Cafe, arguments occurred between Dave Feigenbaum and two members of the black community. The first incident occurred when a black prostitute solicited bar customers for funds to benefit a deceased prostitute’s children. When Feigenbaum asked the prostitute to leave, she showed some resistance and quarreled with him until he finally got her to leave. Residual tensions from this incident set the stage for Feigenbaum’s next encounter with a black man who requested water to accompany his order. Feigenbaum claimed he could not serve the man because he was ordering out. He further instructed the barmaids not to serve water to blacks, and posted a sign on the door that read “no water for niggers (sic)” 2 . Once the news of the incidents spread, frustrations peaked in the ghetto and led to the start of the riots.
One day after the riots began (July 19th), the Cleveland paper, the Plain Dealer, ran the front page headline, “Woman Killed in Hough Violence”3 . Twenty-six year old Joyce Arnett was ushered into a nearby apartment by police, where she became frantic about the safety of her children. She poked her head out the window of a building to announce that she was going to leave the building, at which point she was shot in the head and chest by three stray bullets from an unknown sniper4 . The article also mentioned fire bombs, shots by snipers (most likely by Hough gang members), fires and looting as other forms of civil disorder5 . While Hough only encompassed approximately two square miles, the riot had fanned out to ten square miles6 .
Chaos mounted to such a level that Cleveland Mayor Ralph Locher called in one thousand Cleveland National Guardsmen. On the night of the National Guardsmen arrived, Percy Giles, a black man, was killed amidst a rapid exchange of gunfire between police and snipers. The most danger from the riots occurred in the first few days, after which the Guard began to take control of the situation. Four deaths occurred during the riots and countless looters and vandals were arrested. The following table shows a compilation of the statistics gathered in a report by the National Guard recounting their post in Hough 7 .
Total Fire Runs Total Actual Fires Total Police Runs
Tues 19 – Wed 27 532 423 1779
Wed 27 – Sun 31 ************* NORMAL *************
In the wake of the violent activities, many asked the question, “Why had the riots occurred?” The Hough Riots are an example of a much larger underlying problem during this time period: “racial injustice and second class status for black citizens”8 . The frustration of poor housing, unemployment and poverty due to second-class citizenship led the younger generations in Hough to seek attention through radical means. The older generation of the Hough community felt it was the “militant youth” that produced the catastrophe of the riots9 . Cleveland Community Relations board director Bertram Gardner, stated that 90-95% of Hough does not agree with the methods and demonstrations of the riot. He said that it was “black nationalism acted out by the wrong people”10 . They felt less destruction and anger could have resulted from tactics from the Martin Luther King Jr. Era.
The riots exposed Hough as a struggling slum and the Cleveland community could no longer ignore its problems. Of foremost importance was the election of Carl Stokes as mayor, because it marked the start of a “new and brighter period in the history of Cleveland, Ohio”11 . To the black population in Cleveland, Mr. Stokes was a breath of fresh air in comparison to the neglect of Mayor Locher and his administration. In fact, the loyalty of the black population to Mr. Stokes prevented a riotous outbreak the summer of 1967, one year after the Hough Riots. Stokes was the mastermind behind the formation of Cleveland: NOW! organization in 1968 that specifically dealt with the urban renewal and revitalization of black ghettos. The organization’s priorities were housing, creation of jobs, city planning, and health care.
In 1967, The Hough Area Development Corp (HADC) was established to “bring economic prosperity to Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood”12 . HADC promoted the creation of black businesses and fostered entrepreneurship. One major component of the organization was the Handyman Maintenance Company which trained unemployed residents and found them work as maintenance men. A report written by the members of the corporation in January of 1969 listed many activities that the Hough residents could be involved with during the rehabilitation of their neighborhood. These activities included recreation centers, Police Athletic League, Good Samaritan Youth Center, Hough Housing Corp and the Opportunities Industrialization Center where job training could be received13 .
The Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) became involved with raising the standards of the Hough men and women. They funded the Special Impact Program in 1968 to offer the impoverished the opportunity to use the free enterprise systems to become independent and self-supporting. It was created to reverse the economic decline in the Hough area, which was about 15.7% at the time. The programs were designed in hopes of significantly changing the problems of unemployment, dependency and community tensions in Hough14 . The OEO realized that the Special Impact program could be more effective if it had the supervision of the HADC. Many important works grew out of the unification of Special impact and the HADC. Some of the most important were the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza shopping center, the chain of McDonald’s restaurants, and the Homes for Hough. Loan programs provided funding for private businesses in Hough and through the purchase of the primarily white-operated McDonald’s restaurant, HADC provided blacks who had previously experienced discrimination at McDonalds a place to find work and enjoy a meal15 .
Due to the fact that Hough had become dominated by youth and young adults, it made sense to establish programs to keep them busy and out of trouble. Summer jobs for youth from impoverished families were used to successfully to steer them away from potential trouble. The one-million dollar program had 1350 youth and 262 young adults involved, most within the ages of fifteen and the late twenties. The Neighborhood Youth Corp was intended for 940 teenagers, but 1460 had come to attend the program16 . The most important accomplishment these statistics show is that the people of Hough were taking the initiative to better themselves and their community.
The task of rebuilding the Hough neighborhood following its many years of neglect seemed almost impossible. Marjorie Buckholz, author of “Twenty-three Years of Work to Improve the Hough Area”, foreshadowed the trials of advancing a broken community such as Hough when she wrote in October of 1966:
Basically, the same problems are there that were neglected twenty years ago. The city lacks a large-range plan for the area within which groups and organizations which want to help can fit their efforts. There is little evidence of courage or of conviction that a plan if created will be implemented. The deterioration of buildings and of human beings who live in this environment continues. It is spreading to other adjacent sections of the city in the same way that it spread in the Hough Area a decade ago.
Her declaration was just the beginning of many criticisms of the rehabilitation efforts of Hough. The ambiguity of the “large-range plan” Cleveland h17 oped to execute was exposed through these criticisms.
When the troops were leaving Hough, they mentioned the “evils” of poverty that caused the “lack of opportunity and initiative” that plagued the community18 . The Hough community’s lack of hope and defiance of the law could not have been seen in a clearer light than through the destruction caused on the fifth day of rioting. A seven story apartment building on East 59th street had been recently purchased by HOPE (Housing Our People Economically) to be renovated to offer low-income housing options to the residents of Hough. It, along with a recreation center called University Party Center, was destroyed by fire and vandalism during the riots19 . With such a lack of respect from the community toward improvements in progress prior to the riots, it is not surprising that the programs that were established after the riots would meet a similar fate.
A major issue was the missing link between the creation of urban renewal programs and the implementation of them. An article in the New York Times, dated February 23rd, 1968, informed its readers that at that point in time, six projects had been started, none finished, and six more had been formulated but not started. Six thousand-plus acres of land had been reserved for renewal, “nearly twice that of any other city”20 . The irony behind all of this was that while no city had ever put so much time and supposed effort into creating and formulating programs, no major city had a project completion rate as low as Cleveland’s. The inactivity of the Cleveland city council was brought to the attention of officials in the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The officials involved in the department were so “disgusted” with the failure in Cleveland that, in 1967, they cut off access to the ten million dollars in “additional renewal funds that had been allocated for Cleveland”21 .
The Special Impact program did not find much success. It got off to a slow start and business in Hough seemed to remain stagnant. The different programs that grew out of HADC and Special Impact had made very few strides as of February 1971, more than two and one half years later22 . Loan programs and other community projects were anticipated to be the most helpful institutions, but did not bring the success many had hoped. The Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza project started late, and since many businesses had left Hough because of the riots, it was hard to find interested vendors23 . Homes for Hough, as of February 1971, had built three family-sized homes and completed one half of the anticipated plans for town homes. The original projection for completion by Homes for Hough was to have fifty units available to residents by 196924 .
The HADC was criticized for not having the “know-how to devise an effective plan”25 . Lack of support from the community as a whole, and the haphazard and rushed formation of HADC, could be reasons why this conclusion was drawn. In addition, the organization did not see the “deficient housing and services” that littered Hough as a threat to the Cleveland Community until it was too late to make immediate progress in the wake of the riots26 . Inefficiency, neglect and the lack of understanding were not just problems within the HADC; most urban renewal programs were similarly afflicted.
The Cleveland NOW! organization started by Carl Stokes experienced a bout of fraudulent activity that permanently damaged the reputation of the association. Fred “Ahmed” Evans, a man closely associated with the militant groups thought as catalysts of the riots, was a member of the Black Nationalist group in Hough. He was able to channel funds from the Cleveland NOW! program through the HADC because it was funding private businesses in Hough. The private business that Evans was involved in was called the African Cultural Shop. He used the money provided for this shop to buy guns for his Nationalist members when racial tensions were at an all-time high during the few years immediately following the riots27 . After Evans’ unlawful actions, the Cleveland NOW! foundation had a very hard time recieving funds, eventually leading to its demise.
There was inconsistency between a couple urban renewal programs. HADC remained active until 1984 while the last major project by Cleveland NOW! was completed in 1970. It failed due to its ties with “Ahmed” Evans and his fraudulent practices. Although, HADC did experience its own turbulent times in the aftermath of the riots. Congressman William E. Marshall criticized the validity of their tax-exempt status, and a Plain Dealer article questioned the effectiveness of their programs28 . These issues may have hampered the abilities of the HADC when it began, but HADC did not experience the negative repercussions Cleveland NOW! did. The inconsistency of urban renewal projects in Cleveland made it hard for many, including organizations willing to endow the projects, to see their value.
While a riot in Hough did not take place, a riot of similar magnitude took place in on July 23rd, 1968 called the Glenville Riots. The money stolen from the Cleveland NOW! program by Fred “Ahmed” Evans was used to fund the violence in Glenville. The Glenville Riots was a shootout initiated by Evans and his militant Nationalist followers and directed at the Cleveland Police Department, which was primarily white. By the end of the shootout, three policemen, four suspects, and one civilian had died while fifteen were wounded29 . Stokes felt that further violence could be stopped if black policemen patrolled Glenville to keep racial tensions under control, while the National Guard and Cleveland Police stayed on the perimeter. No more deaths were reported, but looting and vandalism did occur30 . The Glenville Riots was an explosion of racial tension and another drawback to implementing improvements after the Hough Riots. It slandered the image and hard work of Mayor Carl Stokes and further angered racist whites.
Almost seven months before the Glenville riots was to take place, Stokes faced harsh criticism of what he had done to improve conditions in Cleveland. The unorganization of urban renewal efforts was coupled by poor conditions in Cleveland slums, including Hough, looking “as depressing as ever”31 . Granted, Stokes was dealt a difficult hand by the previous Mayor Ralph Locher. His ineffective and inefficient methods allowed “the city to slide into a sad state of disrepair”32 . Critics realized this and were willing to acknowledge the setbacks of the Stokes administration early in his term as inexperience and adjustment to issues passed onto him as he entered office33 . Yet, despite conditions for which Stokes had no control, or the lack of sufficient time to prove his competence, he had to realize that drastic improvements needed to be made before he would gain the trust of the people of Cleveland.
With Stokes trying to prove his abilities as Mayor, the Glenville Riots did not help positively develop his image. During the riots, Stokes banned whites from the area after the first nights “fire fight” and equipped the area with a black police force, hoping to ease the racial tension and prevent further deaths34 . Stokes and his administration believed that this was a smart move on the part of the mayor, but white policemen believed otherwise. Angered by the death and injury they had already endured, the white policemen saw the move as a “sellout to the black nationalists”35 . Cleveland NOW! had the potential to make great strides in Cleveland’s ghettos, but after Glenville the large funds from big businesses and individual donations left the organization’s collection dry.
Many believed the Mayor had direct contact with Fred “Ahmed” and his squandering of Cleveland NOW! funds. Carl Stokes was summoned to the Probate Court in Cleveland when a complaint was filed saying Stokes “directed” money from the program into the hands of the Black Nationalists and Ahmed, as well as claiming he participated in an “unlawful parade” on the second anniversary of the Hough Riots36 . While proper sources were unavailable to confirm the outcome of the trial, it can be inferred that the complaints were probably invalid and the charges against Stokes were most likely dropped. Regardless of the validity of these statements, the publicity of this complaint would put doubt in the mind of Stokes most avid supporters; maybe even eliminate their support for good.
After the Glenville riots, many were searching for answers as to what could have motivated Evans and his followers to commit such a brutally violent act. In response, a New York Times article read,
From the shabby Hough slums to the luxurious homes in Shaker Heights, Negroes express a conviction that the police are there to abuse them, not to protect them.37
The brutality of the white police force was yet another issue that finally came to the surface in the aftermath of the Hough Riots. The Cleveland Police made comments about needing capital punishment to “keep the Negro in line”, and directed “anti-Negro” statements at Mayor Stokes on the police radio during the Glenville Riots38 . The policemen were angered by Stokes’s decision to keep the Cleveland National Guard and white police out of the area to prevent further violence from racial tensions. Violent eruptions due to police brutality took place throughout the country. A white policeman was killed in New Jersey by black youths when they retaliated against the suppression and discrimination the police employed39 . If the abusive ways of the white police force was not handled properly, the friction would lead to more militancy by blacks and “a growth of fascism among whites”40 . All in all, it was made clear that the racial tension preceding the Hough Riots was increasing, and violence and death seemed to be the ultimate result.
Polarization of the races was also due to violence caused by the white minorities who had “the most to lose in the steady advancement of Negro rights”41 . The Hough neighborhood was surrounded by “unsympathetic neighborhoods of Poles and Italians” who did not want an equalizing of standards in Hough42 . Most of the Italian-Americans, like those who lived in Murray Hill, a neighborhood adjacent to Hough, were unskilled workers who felt that their jobs were in jeopardy. In fact, several major riots of the past were due to extreme competition for the limited jobs and housing that were available43 . More white gangs surfaced that were ready to strike at the militant blacks of Cleveland at any time. Former youth groups in the areas were becoming stomping grounds for “viscously racist” gangs, like the white Chain Gang that practiced shooting guns at “paper targets they [called] ‘niggers’”44 .
The immediate aftermath of the Hough Riots resembles one of triumph and of disappointment. The City of Cleveland finally noticed the “people lost inside a country” and realized that civil disobedience of this magnitude should not be ignored45 . Large corporations within Cleveland and individuals associated with the leadership community of Hough joined forces to combat the devastating conditions of this overcrowded neighborhood in the black ghetto. The many measures taken by citizens of Cleveland to improve Hough were more than any other major city during the Sixties. However, not enough of the proposed goals were met. Racial tension actually increased the violence and, in particular, it seemed to aggravate the white racists. Programs took on too much too soon, and they either failed due to fraudulent practice and incompetence within the organizations, or they were not provided with sufficient funding or support. Mayor Stokes presented a new beginning for Cleveland at its black residents, but the works he initiated did not produce many results and the extreme frustration in Hough played out again in the Glenville Riots. Attitudes within the ghetto did not seem to change, and the prevailing atmosphere of hopelessness felt by the residents did not appear to be heading in an optimistic direction.
The Hough Riots will forever symbolize an important turning point for the City of Cleveland. The riots identified an underlying problem of racial discrimination within poor, black communities among Cleveland’s 876,050 residents (as of 1960) that could no longer go unnoticed. Unfortunately, the city’s leadership at the time could not gain a sufficient understanding of the change needed, and could not implement the solutions they found in enough time to do any immediate good. Furthermore, the Hough community itself displayed little desire to change its ways and better the community. While the direct outcome of the riots did not produce much success, with the help of the new mayor, Carl Stokes, and a change in attitude from the black and white residents alike, the neighborhood made some progress in the years to come.
Link one: http://statenews.org/story_page.cfm?ID=5134&year=2001&month=7
Link two: http://www.clevelandmemory.org/hough/
1. Mark E. Lackritz. “The Hough Riots of 1966.” Special Collections of the Cleveland
State University Library: 7. http://www.clevelandmemory.org/hough/
2. Lackritz 7
3. “Women Killed in Hough Violence”. Plain Dealer. 19 July 1966: 1
4. Lackritz 8
5. “Women Killed in Hough Violence”. Plain Dealer. 19 July 1966: 1
6. Adjutant General’s Dept. “The Hough riot, Cleveland, Ohio. This report on the role of the Ohio National Guard during the Hough area riots in Cleveland, 18-31 July 1996.” Columbus: Ohio. 1966.
7. Adjutant General’s Dept.
8. Lackritz, 5
9. Robert G. McGruder. “Older People in Hough Want No Part of Trouble”. 20 July 1966
10. Doris O’Donnell. “Rioting Blamed on Negro Frustration.” Plain Dealer 21 July 1966: 9.
12. Hough Area Development Corporation Records. Cleveland, OH: Hough Area Development Corp., 1968-1985. Register
13. Hough Area Development Corp, Box 16 Folder 313
14. General Accounting Office. “Development of minority businesses and employment in the Hough area of Cleveland, Ohio, under the special impact program [of the] Office of Economic Opportunity. Report to the Congress by the Comptroller General of the United States”. Washington. 1971. 6-8
15. General Accounting Office. 10
16. “Cause of costly riot and unrest may be eliminated by reforms”. Plain Dealer. 23 July 1966
17. Marjorie Buckholz. “Twenty-three years of work to improve the Hough Area”. 1966 25
18. “When troops leave…”. Plain Dealer. 21st July 1966
19. “When troops leave…”. Plain Dealer. 21st July 1966
20. Paul Hoffman. “Stokes Program Gains Momentum”.” New York Times 23 Feb. 1968: 66. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2002). http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?sid=1&RQT=511&TS=1134527551&clientId=43422&firstIndex=0
21. Hoffman 66
22. General Accounting Office 11
23. General Accounting Office 11
24. General Accounting Office 43
25. Buckholz 24
26. Buckholz 22
27. Cleveland NOW! register
28. Hough Area Development Corporation Records. Register
29. Louis H. Masotti and Jerome R. Cosi. “”Glenville Shootout”” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. 1969. <http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=GS1>. 1
30. Masotti and Cosi 1
31. Hoffman 66
32. Lackritz 66
33. Hoffman 66
34. Anthony Ripley. “Terror in Cleveland.” New York Times 28 July 1968: 136. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2002). <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?sid=1&RQT=511&TS=1134528104&clientId=43422&firstIndex=10>.
35. Ripley 136
36. “Cleveland’s Mayor Ordered into Court.” New York Times 2 Oct. 1968: 769. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2002). <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?sid=1&RQT=511&TS=1134528104&clientId=43422&firstIndex=10>.
37. Thomas A. Johnson “The Racial Violence in Cleveland.” The New York Times 3 Sept. 1968: 36. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2002). <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?
38. Johnson 36
39. Johnson 36
40. Johnson 36
41. David Vienna. ““Black vs. White: Riots in Cleveland, Brooklyn took Ugly Turn”.” Wall Street Journal: 14 March 1967: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Wallstreet Journal (1889-1988). <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?sid=1&RQT=511&TS=1134530768&clientId=43422&firstIndex=0>..
42. Paul Hoffman. “Cleveland Fears New Outbreaks as It Awaits ‘Nonviolent Action’ by Dr. King; ‘We Need No Sermons’ ‘Cleveland Casbah’ Directive From City Hall Dr. King Assailed Fears Are Voiced.” New York Times 12 May. 1967: 51. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2002). <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?sid=1&RQT=511&TS=1134530768&clientId=43422&firstIndex=0>.
43. Vienna 1
44. Monroe W. Karmin and David Vienna. “Racial Powder Keg; Negro-White Hostility Mounting in Cleveland As City’s Efforts Fail; Armed Youth Gangs Growing; Mayor Blamed by Business, Established Negro Leaders CORE, Reds, Klan Eye City.” Wall Street Journal 14 Mar. 1967: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Wallstreet Journal (1889-1988). <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?sid=1&RQT=511&TS=1134530768&clientId=43422&firstIndex=0>.
45. “Despair lights fuse of Bombs in the US Ghetto”. Plain Dealer. 23 July 1966
“Teaching the Hough Riots” Ideastream July, 2016
Living History: Hough, Before & Beyond ’66 (Video) July, 2016 Ideastream
Published on Jul 12, 2016
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Hough riots, also known as the Hough rebellion, or the Hough uprising. The unrest began on the night of July 18, 1966 on the corner Hough Avenue and East 79th Street, and lasted about a week.
While the unrest of ’66 may first come to mind when thinking of Hough, few Northeast Ohioans know the rich history of the Hough neighborhood. Millionaires inhabited Hough before WWI, middle, workingclass immigrant residents populated Hough in the 1930s and 1940s and by 1960, the populace was predominantly African American. Additionally, not many people know the stories behind the local and national policies that led to the unrest of 1966, the fires that burned through the 70s, or the neighborhood Hough became from the 80s through today.
On Thursday, July 7th, 2016 ideastream® held an illuminating and wide ranging panel discussion on the history on Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood at The Happy Dog at The Euclid Tavern, moderated by ideastream reporter/producer Nick Castele The nearly hour long Q&A session that followed was equally illuminating.
Documentary depicting the 1966 riots in the Cleveland neighborhood of Hough. Made for National History Day 2008, National Qualifier. Made by Benjamin Davis and Lawrence Neil.
The link is here