African American Archives

African American Archives

aboutThe African American History Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society was established in 1970. Its purpose is to collect, preserve and make accessible historic documents, photographs, memorabilia, art, and artifacts pertaining to African American life, history and culture in Northeast Ohio. The collection includes manuscripts, photographs, microfilm, and newspaper collections. Museum artifacts are specific to the African American experience and cover a wide range of topics and categories of primary importance to the body of Black history.

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African American Archives Auxiliary

The African American Archives Auxiliary (AAAA) provides support and guidance for the development of the African American Archives collections at WRHS.

For information on the African American Archives Auxiliary or to find out how to support its work, contact:

Sherlynn Allen-Harris
African American Archives Auxiliary, Acting President
Western Reserve Historical Society, Board of Directors, Ex-Officio Member
sallenharris2@gmail.com

History of African Americans in the Western Reserve

The Western Reserve is considered that portion of land in northeast Ohio extending from the Pennsylvania border in the east 120 miles westward and 80 miles southward. Its northern border is Lake Erie and the southern border is the parallel of the 41st degree North Latitude. The Western Reserve comprises 12 counties (Ashtabula, Lake, Medina, Geauga, Trumbull, Lorain, Erie, Huron, Portage, parts of Summit, and Mahoning) including Cuyahoga County and the city of Cleveland. The state of Connecticut obtained the Western Reserve of the Northwest Territory and sold it to a group of investors called the Connecticut Land Company in 1795. In 1796, The Connecticut Land Company sent a survey expedition to the Reserve, headed by Moses Cleaveland, an American Revolutionary War veteran.

African American history in the Western Reserve can be documented as early as 1796. Joseph Black Joe Hodge, a freeman of color, trapper by trade, was hired by the Connecticut Western Reserve Surveying Party in 1796 to act as a guide and Native American language interpreter. Hodge lead the party from his home in Buffalo Creek in Western New York state to the Conneaut Creek area of the Reserve, just east of modern day Cleveland. From that time on, a small trickle of people of African decent moved through or settled in the area. The first permanent African descendant settlers were George Peake and his family who migrated from Pennsylvania, to the western shores of the Cuyahoga River, in 1809. Peake purchased 101 acres of land in Rockport in 1811 and settled with his family, into a life of farming. George Peake was a veteran of the French and Indian War of 1759, serving under General James Wolfe in the Battle of Abraham Plains at Quebec. Following Peake, the African American population was a slow growth in Cleveland. African Americans came to the Western Reserve as free men and women, newly emancipated or as runaways and fugitives from bondage.