Hough Riots: The Aftermath by Brigette Bencoe

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.

11.            Lackritz,69.

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 Cleveland Digital is a repository of writing, pictures and videos to support the teaching of Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and Ohio @ www.teachingcleveland.org.

Teaching Cleveland Digital