The notable accomplishments of Lawrence O. Payne include his graduation from John Marshall Law School and his election to Cleveland City Council. Allen E. Cole’s 1935 photograph of the “Payne for Council” women’s basketball team is one of the better-known images in the African American Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society. What sometimes escapes the notice of history students, however, is the fact that two of the athletes in this photograph were sisters. Jean Murrell Capers (standing on the far left), became a Cleveland teacher, an attorney, and the first African American woman elected to Cleveland City Council. Her sister, Alice Murrell Rose (kneeling, right), also became a teacher. Both were Kentucky natives who migrated to Ohio with other members of the Murrell family in 1919, during the Great Depression, and both attended Cleveland Public Schools.
A professional photographer in Cleveland’s black community during the mid-20th century, Allen Cole documented many African American families through his work. See more of his photographs in Digital Cleveland Starts Here.
We all know that pizza is an Italian American food, brought to America by Italian immigrants who came here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Americans did not find Italian food appealing at first. Garlic was an offensive flavor. But over the years, Italian food has become a staple in the American diet, particularly pizza. Ettore Boiardi, better known as Chef Boy-ar-dee, is credited with giving Americans the taste for tomato sauce, garlic, cheese, and pasta.
Boiardi immigrated to New York in 1914. He worked at the Plaza Hotel, eventually becoming head chef.nIn 1917, he headed to Cleveland and worked at the Hotel Winton on Prospect Ave. Ten years later, he opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d’ Italia (The Italian Garden), on East 9th and Woodland Avenue.
Due to demand, Boiardi began selling packages with sauce, a small chunk of parmesan, and pasta to customers. The business and his customer base grew so much that by 1938 he had to move to a factory in Milton, Pennsylvania. He sold to ConAgra Foods in 1946, but continued to serve as the spokesman for the products. The Chef Boy-ar-dee pizza kit first appeared in the market in 1955 and included all the ingredients to make a pizza at home. The pizza kits are still available in stores today.
Tracing one’s ancestors has become a passionate pursuit for many people today and genealogy, or family history (as it is often described) is regarded as one of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States. Certainly, it is a centerpiece of the activities of the research library at the Cleveland History Center – it has long been so, but it is a far different pursuit today than it was several generations ago.
In western and other global societies genealogy initially focused on the tracing of lineages in order to support claims of inherited authority or wealth. Kingships depended on it as did the transfer of lands. The creation of the United States and its “absence” of an hereditary aristocracy somewhat undercut the importance of genealogy as an instrument to transfer power — but it remained central in matters of inheritance. But it many ways it developed as a different means to claim status, if not to a throne, but to a place of primacy in the creation of the nation. This took place particularly in the late nineteenth century as immigration and migration changed our national demography. Organizations such as the Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Mayflower Society were founded between 1889 and 1897. In an increasingly polyglot nation, the Daughters, in particular, worked to Americanize immigrants and all focused on the passing on of national values. Having deep roots in the nation counted, and these patriotic societies played significant roles in encouraging genealogy and the knowledge of our nation’s history.
The social changes of the 1960s would impact genealogy significantly. Alex Haley’s book Roots inspired many African Americans to look into their families’ histories – a job made difficult by slavery, but one which Haley’s book encouraged. At the same time an “ethnic revival” prompted many Americans to discover their own family histories and to claim a “heritage”. It was all part of a process of looking at the United States more as a diverse mosaic of cultures, rather than a homogeneous “melting pot.” There was a rapid growth of genealogical organizations that focused on Jewish, Italian, Polish, Slovenian, African-American and other identities within our city and nation, and concurrently a desire to learn more about ancestral cultures.
This broader pursuit of a family history has been catalyzed by the ever expanding global digitization of sources available for research as well as the growth of archival sources at institutions such as the Western Reserve Historical Society. Importantly, media programs such as “Finding Your Roots” with Professor Henry Louis Gates have shown the diversity of our family histories and the amazing ways in which that diversity is co-mingled over the years. There is a debate as to whether the study of lineage differs from a study of a family’s history – in a sense, the difference between an objective versus a personal approach. But the end result is still about families – the continuities that define them and the many intersections that link them more broadly to a community, a nation, and the globe.
The first ‘family car’ was invented rather by accident in 1888, when Bertha Benz, the intelligent and adventurous wife of automobile inventor Carl Benz decided on a whim to leave with her husband’s latest prototype vehicle and visit family in the neighboring town of Pforzheim, Germany, some 66 miles away. She bundled her two adolescent sons into the car, which lacked even rudimentary protection from the elements, and ventured off. Keep in mind that her spontaneous jaunt occurred in an era when there were no fuel stations, no service facilities, and limited communication other than telegraphy. After a day-long journey, packed with numerous improvisations to keep the car running, Bertha and her brood arrived safely. Upon returning home several days later, the unapologetic Bertha suggested various design improvements to her husband’s automobile, which he dutifully adopted!
Although designs progressed rapidly over the next two decades, it wasn’t until around 1926 that the automobile became a ‘family-friendly’ vehicle with the introduction of hot-air heaters in the Ford Model A. Of course, earlier cars could easily transport several people, but the adoption of glassed-in passenger compartments and heaters provided year-round comfort and protection, perfect for routine errands or a weekend cruise in the country.
In 1926, the Jordan Motor Car Company of Cleveland contracted with the Wiedman Body Company of upstate New York to adapt their “Sport Model” camper body to the Jordan frame. Jordan marketed the hybrid as the “House Car”, and it became one of the earliest examples of what is now known as a “family camper”. This rare time capsule vehicle is currently on display at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.
Concurrently, the expansion of the nation’s road infrastructure allowed easier access to distant locales, spurring development of roadside hotels, or ‘motels’ along several interstate highways. The ‘family vacation’ no longer depended upon rail or marine transportation, and savvy automakers took note of the growing popularity of automobile travel.
The term ‘family car’ has become synonymous with the development of the station wagon, first marketed by Ford in 1929. Early versions were mostly used as utility vehicles, but at the end of World War II, given the average American’s growing wealth, abundance of babies, and migration to the suburbs, station wagons became the transport of choice for growing families.
Domestic automakers provided a bewildering variety of station wagons from the 1950’s through the ‘70’s, many of which could carry ten passengers plus baggage. How many of us recall riding in the rear-facing ‘jumpseat’ of a wagon, waving or making faces at the following cars. Perhaps the most exotic of the wagons was the Chevrolet two door Nomad of the mid-Fifties, a favorite of custom and hot rod builders today. Who can forget the ‘Wagon Queen Family Truckster’ from the 1983 film ‘Vacation’, or the revered ‘Vista Cruiser’ from ‘That 70’s Show’?
Station wagons have faded into obscurity in favor of today’s SUV’s and pickup trucks, but how many lasting memories will be created in these vehicles? Was it really freedom to crawl around a car without seatbelts, wind in one’s hair, or just youthful naivete?
One of the most remarkable examples of adaptive reuse in Greater Cleveland stands at the southeast corner of East Ninth and Euclid — there a Heinens grocery store has been transplanted into the main rotunda of the former Cleveland Trust Bank headquarters, one of the city’s most striking interior spaces.
Designed by noted architect George P. Post, the building was completed in 1908. The domed structure instantly became a landmark. By the 1920s, it and three other large buildings – the Schofield, the Hickox, and Union Trust Bank occupied corners on what was, perhaps, the busiest urban intersection in the nation’s fifth largest city, one whose fortunes rested on industry, banking, commerce, and transportation.
Downtown Cleveland bustled. But seventy years later the city’s economy had shifted and diminished and Cleveland Trust had become part of what is now KeyCorp. Banking operations ceased in 1996 and the Post building stood empty until, in what has been characterized by author Lauren Pacini, the “renaissance on East Ninth” took place. The entire Cleveland Trust complex along East Ninth was transformed into a hotel, apartments, offices, and the Heinens store housed in the former banking rotunda. One can now grocery shop and dine under the dome in an area which for nearly nine decades was the site of financial transactions, large and small, that shaped the fortunes of the city and its citizens. The lower level vaults in which those fortunes were stashed now are home to a cocktail lounge named (you guessed it), “Vault.”
Belle Sherwin was one of the most important figures in the LWV’s history. Born in Cleveland to one of the founders of Sherwin-Williams Company, she worked for several years as a teacher before becoming involved in the suffragist movement. Sherwin headed and founded charitable and welfare organizations, including the Cleveland Consumer’s League (1899), and the Women’s City Club (1916). During World War I, she organized women locally, and served as a Women’s Committee Chairman for the Council of National Defense. In 1920, Sherwin chaired the League of Women Voters in Cleveland and became the second president of the national League of Women Voters from 1924-1934, where she launched many of the nonpartisan voter education programs and initiatives that LWV still follows today.
The brainchild of Carrie Chapman Catt, the League of Women Voters (LWV) was conceived more than a year before ratification of the 19th amendment in August 1920. The national organization officially organized on February 14, 1920. In April, 1920, the Woman’s Suffrage Party of Greater Cleveland prepared to transform into Cleveland’s League of Women Voters. On May 29, 1920, the National and State Leagues officially inducted the Cleveland LWV at the Hotel Hollenden with public ceremonies the previous evening.
From its beginning, the LWV worked to educate all voters through nonpartisan voter guides and candidate debates. Clevelander Belle Sherwin introduced voter guides in 1921, which became nationally adopted. Over the decades, these guides have appeared in multiple languages in newspapers, their member publication, and as standalone publications. The LWV provides details about candidates’ positions on issues, interviews, and suggestions on where to find out more. Today, the LWV operates a nationwide online voting guide, www.vote441.org.
The suffragists who created the League also had deep roots in reform movements, and the LWV has always worked on enacting “good government” legislation and social policy reforms through coordinated advocacy campaigns and lobbying. The LWV chooses its issues, such as public housing, welfare reform, child labor law, public transit, gun violence, and renewable energy, by member consensus after intensive study. One important example of this work is their 1963 formation of the Lake Erie Basin Committee to preserve and restore the health of Lake Erie and its watershed. This committee was the first Great Lakes watershed organization, inspiring numerous others to form. It tackles issues such as fracking, nuclear waste, and clean drinking water. The League’s advocacy work remains true to its grassroots heritage and LWV continues the fight to ensure that “ALL votes are counted and ALL voices are heard.”
Humans have long had a fascination with collecting and preserving flowers, a practice believed to date back to ancient civilizations. In the 16th century, Japanese artists began the practice of Oshibana, in which they would create large pictures using pressed flowers as their medium. As trade with Japan increased in the mid-1800s, citizens of the western countries became fascinated with the use of pressed flowers as an art form. By the late 1800s, flower pressing had taken hold as a favorite pastime in England and the United States.
There were many reasons that an individual might collect flowers during this time, from the sentimental (preserving a flower given as a gift from a loved one) to the scientific (keeping a botanical scrapbook to aid in identifying native blooms). Regardless of the reason, the practice of pressing flowers was highly regarded as a creative pastime, and many would take pains to ensure that their work was beautifully displayed. Flowers of the time were often found framed behind glass in elaborate arrangements, sometimes with pieces of ribbon to complement the blooms, or meticulously organized in scrapbooks with their taxonomical description written next to them.
Fortunately, many examples of this old-fashioned pastime still exist today, thanks in large part to the original artists’ efforts to preserve the specimens. For example, the Western Reserve Historical Society has in its collection a floral bouquet from the grave of Abraham Lincoln, preserved by the wife of a Tiffin, Ohio judge in 1865. As can be seen in the photo, the flowers have remained remarkably intact in the 155 years since their pressing.
Perhaps the most appealing part of this pastime was its accessibility. Although some used tools such as the field press (a small device designed to clamp the specimens tightly between two boards), sophisticated equipment was not required to get a satisfying end result. In fact, the only items needed to take up this new hobby were a large book, a few flowers, and a bit of patience.
The same goes today as it did over 100 years ago. For those in search of a new hobby, flower pressing is easy to begin and can be done using items that most have on hand at home. Whether you want to preserve a few blooms or start your own botanical scrapbook, follow the instructions below to get started on your own flower pressing project.
– Botanical materials (flowers, leaves, grasses, etc.)
– Large book
– Base: large blank journal or scrapbook, notecards, canvas, etc.
– White school glue, diluted
(1 drop water to quarter-sized drop of glue.)
1) Collecting | When it comes to collecting materials to press, the options are limitless. Flowers are, of course, a popular option, but leaves, herbs, and grasses also make for very interesting artwork. When choosing flowers, look for those that have recently bloomed and are fresh but not overly damp. Note: Be prepared to press your materials shortly after collecting them. Flowers tend to wilt quickly once they are picked, so the sooner you can get them pressed, the better!
2) Pressing | Next, press your materials by placing them between the pages of a large book. (Botanical materials tend to leave imprints behind as they dry, so it’s best to use a book you don’t mind getting a bit stained. You can also protect your pages with wax paper, baking parchment, or coffee filters.) Be sure to lay the leaves and petals as flat as possible before closing the pages. To aid in the pressing process, you can place a large object on top of the book to weigh it down.
Typically, it takes about a week for most plants to fully dry. To determine if your items are ready, carefully pick them up. If they remove easily from the page and feel stiff and crisp, it’s time to take them out. If they still feel pliable or seem to stick to the page, it is likely that they still have moisture in the petals and should be left a bit longer.
3) Arranging | How you present your pressed flowers is entirely up to you. Some popular options include affixing the plants to a notecard, using them to make a design on a piece of canvas, or cataloging them in a scrapbook. Some even make jewelry out of pressed flowers by suspending them in resin and attaching the piece to a necklace chain or ring base.
Regardless of your medium, you will likely need to paste your flowers to the base of your choosing. To do this, mix a drop of water with a quarter-sized dollop of white school glue. The result should be a paste that is slightly diluted but still sticky. Using a small paintbrush, apply the paste to your base in a thin layer. (Less is more!) Then, gently place your flowers on the paste in the design of your choosing. Note: It is generally helpful to plot out your design before pasting it down, especially if your design is particularly elaborate.
Allow the paste to fully dry (approximately 15 minutes). Then, you are ready to display your finished product!
Almira L. White, nee Greenleaf (1838-1900) was the wife of Thomas H. White, founder of the White Sewing Machine Corporation, the parent of the White Motor Corporation. This memorial window now located in the Bingham-Hanna House at WRHS comes from the First Unitarian Church, formerly located at Euclid Avenue and East 82nd Street. It was rescued by members of the White family.
The theme of the window appears to be a verse from the Bible, “And why take ye thought of raiment, consider the lilies of the field, see how they grow; they toil not neither do they spin” (Matthew 6:28). Depicted beneath an elaborate Gothic canopy, the thoughtful figure is neither a saint nor an angel, but a woman who has been interrupted at her work, as is evident from the distaff in her left hand wound with flax fibers to be spun.
Although the window is not signed or stamped, it is attributed to Tiffany Studios. Louis C. Tiffany’s innovations in stained glass include the use of opalescent glass with muted colors that give a painterly effect. Chips of bright glass in the neck edging, flowers, and foliage draw attention to these areas. The face, hands, and foot were created by fusing powdered tinted glass and metallic oxides onto a clear sheet of glass, and not by painting on the features as had been customary before Tiffany. Surface sculpting of the glass creates three-dimensionality in the fold of the garment. All these kinds and thicknesses of glass could not have been joined by traditional single-width lead stripping. Instead, Tiffany pioneered the process of sheathing the edges of the glass pieces with copper foil and joining the pieces with lead solder. The thinner joint lines are part of the overall design, leading the eye from one form to another. The Almira L. White memorial window is an excellent example of Tiffany’s belief that craft could achieve the level of importance formerly accorded only to fine art.
Happy Earth Day! Cleveland has much to be proud of on this 51st Earth day, and it’s all because of the June 22, 1969 Cuyahoga River Fire. A month after the fire, Time Magazine published an article on the nation’s environmental problems, and it was that article along with Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes’ successful lobbying for better environmental legislation that helped to ignite national environmental policy change. Following the fire Carl Stokes testified before Congress advocating for greater federal involvement in pollution control, which led to the first Earth Day event on April 22, 1970 and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later that same year.
Although Stokes acknowledged the importance of reducing air and water pollution, as Cleveland’s first black mayor he was the first to broaden the focus on how these issues affect low-income and minority communities. Stokes remarked at the first Earth Day event “I am fearful that the priorities on air and water pollution may be at the expense of what the priorities of the country ought to be: proper housing, adequate food and clothing.” So as we reflect on this Earth Day and continue to champion for the environmental movement, let’s not forget to champion for our urban environments as well.
By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D.
Before AsiaTown, Cleveland, like many other major American cities had its Chinatown. Situated on and around Rockwell Avenue between East 21st and East 24th it was the second location for a community that had originally located on St. Clair, in the area just behind Old Stone Church. With Chinese immigration severely restricted by an act passed in 1882, it was a small community. Only about 800 Chinese were in the city in the 1930s. For those who visited the restaurants along the south side of Rockwell, the area was “Chinese” – signified not only by cuisine but by the colors, lettering, and symbols that adorned the buildings, most particularly that of the On Leong Tong at 2150 Rockwell. Today that structural symbolism carries over into AsiaTown. One sees it at the shopping mall on the northwest corner of Payne and East 30th street and in the signage along Payne Avenue. Design elements on the Asian Evergreen Apartments at Payne and E. 39th echo the name of the building.
These examples bring up the broader question as to how our city’s architecture reflects the diverse cultures that make up greater Cleveland. For the most part, our buildings, including our homes, business blocks, and churches, reflect common American or European styles. That certainly is the case on Rockwell because behind the signs and adornments, the structures reflect the era in which they were built. But there are exceptions and they can be found largely in religious structures.
Many Christian denominations, most particularly Roman Catholic had churches created by and for particular ethnic groups – Italians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, and many others. Yet, the architectural style of these buildings usually reflected common European architectural idioms. What differentiates them are the languages used on their cornerstones and often on the stained glass windows and on the labels of statues within the buildings. Within the Jewish community, language and symbol were cultural signifiers in structures of a variety of styles. A prominent one for major congregations was Byzantine – most apparent in the domes on Temple Tifereth Israel (the Maltz Center for the Performing Arts) in University Circle, in the Euclid Avenue Temple (later Liberty Hill Baptist Church) and on the Cleveland Jewish Center – Anshe Emeth (now Cory Methodist Church) in Glenville.
It is, however, within the Eastern Orthodox Christian community that the exterior of the building often indicates a difference. St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral (opened in 1912) has become a major symbol of our community’s diversity and one of the “must sees” in the Tremont Neighborhood. Its multiple domes set it apart. Yet, it is not alone – when many Orthodox Churches moved from the city the architectural style transferred to the new building they built in the suburbs.
These structures and the neighborhoods in which they were built are the consequences of the large scale European immigration that changed the demographics of the city in the years before the 1920s when immigration was restricted by the Quota Acts of 1921 and 1924. Some would say that over that time Cleveland transformed from a New England city to an “Ellis Island” city. But saying that neglects those who came to Cleveland from elsewhere in the United States – African Americans from the South, Appalachian migrants, and those from rural areas and small towns. Migration and suburbanization would transform the population of old neighborhoods and old structures, both churches and businesses, were adapted to those changes.
That is essentially what AsiaTown has done along Payne Avenue where older structures have taken on new identities. That transformation was made possible by the Immigration Act of 1965, which replaced the discriminatory laws that preceded it. It opened up America and Greater Cleveland to cultures from across the globe seeking opportunity and security. By the late 1970s the bulk of immigrants no longer came from Europe, but from South Asia, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Their presence in Greater Cleveland can be seen in the languages in shop windows along Detroit Avenue and along West 25th Street, and in new religious structures that make statements about identity, culture, and belief – the Islamic Center of Cleveland and the Shiva Vishnu Temple, both in Parma, are important examples. But they are not alone. Today there are over a dozen mosques, four Hindu temples, and three Buddhist temples in Greater Cleveland. Each adds, both on the inside and outside, to the constructed culture of the community.
The multi-cultural evolution of our community has been astounding, but even more astounding, perhaps, is the manner in which old structures are repurposed and new structures and styles become accepted and considered symbols of a community that has a history of demographic change. It is not, at times, an easy process for some now – and it wasn’t in the past. The history of our immigration laws tells that tale. Yet, the popularity of AsiaTown provides, one hopes, a counter narrative.
By Regennia N. Williams, PhD
In recognition of the fact that April is National Minority Health Month, and in light of recent reports of the disproportionately high morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans during the COVID-19 global pandemic, I invite readers to join me in examining the role of African American physicians in the history of the healthcare profession.
I am convinced that the story of Cleveland’s Dr. Middleton H. Lambright Jr. has lessons for the world. Many biographical sketches of Dr. Lambright mention that this Glenville High School alumnus studied at Tennessee’s Meharry Medical College, was one of the co-founders of Glenville’s Forest City Hospital (1957)—where he became Chief of Surgery; that he served as president of the Metropolitan General Hospital Medical Staff, and was a member of the Board of Trustees of Cleveland State University and President of the local affiliate of the American Medical Association in the 1960s.
None of the biographical statements that I reviewed, however, included the fact that, in 1971, he was one of the co-founders of the group that would later be known as the African American Archives Auxiliary of the Western Reserve Historical Society. Dr. Lambright’s willingness to say yes to the preservation of Black History suggests that he understood the significance of his work with Forest City Hospital, a product of the Black Hospital Movement and an institution located in a neighborhood that was over 90% Black by 1960.
Making a Place for Ourselves: The Black Hospital Movement, 1920-1945 (Oxford University Press, 1995), Dr. Vanessa Northington Gamble devotes an entire chapter, “Cleveland: A Black Hospital at Last,” to a discussion of the history of Forest City Hospital. Having previewed the book, I now look forward to reading the entire volume and learning more about the work of Dr. Middleton H. Lambright, Jr. and Dr. Middleton H. Lambright, Sr., two African American physicians who were active in the Black Hospital Movement in Cleveland.
*For more information of Cleveland’s Glenville Neighborhood and African American sites historical memory, please see:
Frazier, Nishani. Harambee City: The Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the Rise of Black Power Populism. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2017.
Leo A. Jackson Papers, Western Reserve Historical Society. The following abstract is included in the catalog description:
Leo Jackson (1920-1996) was an African American attorney and appeals court judge in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a member of Cleveland’s city council from 1957-1970 where he represented the Glenville neighborhood and Ward 24. The collection consists of affidavits, agendas, applications, budgets, campaign literature, campaign signs, case files, certificates, charts, correspondence, court documents, expense statements, flyers, forms, journal entries, judicial opinions, lists, magazine articles, magazine clippings, magazines/publications, manuals, maps, meeting minutes, memoranda, newsletters, newspaper articles, newspaper clippings, notes, notices, ordinances, petitions, reports, resolutions, rosters, speeches/statements/remarks, syllabi, thesis, and transcripts. The collection also includes seven audiotapes, four film reels, 37 black and white photographs, and 12 color photographs.
The finding aid for the Leo Jackson’s Papers (22 containers and 2 oversize folders) is available online HERE.
By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D.
Slavic Village is one of the neighborhood names in Cleveland that gives a hint of the city’s diversity. However, the name is a creation of the late 1970s when the area along Fleet Avenue was rebranded in order to create a new, more marketable identity. At that time Little Italy was well on the way toward its evolution from an insular ethnic enclave into a tourist attraction. In 1977 Teddy and Donna Sliwinski and Kaszimier Wieclaw formed Neighborhood Ventures Incorporated to transform the commercial stretch along Fleet into a more recognizable entity. Wieclaw designed distinctive Polish Hylander style facades for many of the commercial buildings to provide a more uniform and identifiably “ethnic” look. A Harvest Festival (now the Village Feast) was initiated to attract people from outside the area.
The renaming seemed to make sense – the area had been populated by “Slavic” peoples since the late nineteenth century. Poles concentrated along the eastern part of the street centered on E. 65th and Czechs on the western end near E. 49th. But the rebranding, then and now, raises a number of questions. Who is empowered to name a neighborhood – particularly one that had existing names with origins that stemmed from the community itself? The Czech’s called their area “Karlin” after a district in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. That was natural given that the city’s main Czech neighborhood, just to the north at E. 55th and Broadway was called “Praha” The Poles called their area “Warszawa” after the largest city in Poland. That fit too, given that Warszawa was the largest Polish neighborhood in Cleveland. There was pushback on the renaming. One person living on Fleet Avenue had a large banner on the porch reading something like “Waszawa” not Slavic Village”.
Now over four decades later, “Slavic Village” has become “the” name of the area – and, indeed, the area has expanded around North and South Broadway. What was once “Krakowa to the south on the border with Cuyahoga Heights is now part of the village and so is Praha. Jackowa sits on the border with the Garden Valley neighborhood but it is often considered part of Slavic Village given its Polish roots.
Yet, this process of choosing and changing names opens other interesting questions. In addition to the authority to choose a new name there is the question as to “whose” history the name might reflect. Should it be the “current” resident community, the recent past residents or a deeper historical past. There were Irish and Welsh in Slavic Village before the Czechs and Poles arrived, and before them, native Americans – did they have names for area that we no longer know? A century from now, will “Slavic Village” and “Little Italy” still resonate as place names with the residents of Cleveland?
By Regennia N. Williams, PhD
From the Glenville High School Library to the Studios of WCLV Radio and Beyond
An oft-quoted passage from Mr. Kermit Pike’s manuscript history of the African American Archives Auxiliary of the Western Reserve Historical Society (formerly known as the Black History Archives Project) states:
In 1971, twenty-three people served on the original Black History Archives Project: Russell T. Adrine, Dr. Tillman Bauknight, Myrtle J. Bell, Professor Thomas E. Campbell, Ernest C. Cooper, Russell H. Davis, Lawrence L. Evert, Ralph W. Findley, Rev. Donald G. Jacobs, Ronald M. Johnson, Butler A. Jones, Dr. Middleton H. Lambright, Robert P. Madison, Professor August Meier, Mrs. A. Grace Lee Mims, George A. Moore, Professor Wilbert Nichols, Ralph L. Pruitt, Robert L. Southgate, Dr. Booker T. Tall, John B. Turner, William O. Walker, and Harvey M. Williamson.
At least two of the group’s founders had known each other for many years. Mrs. A. Grace Lee Mims and Mr. Robert P. Madison were, in fact, fictive kin—with family ties that linked them to their ancestors’ experiences in rural Snow Hill, Alabama, Mims’ birthplace.
At the age of 15, Madison’s father, Mr. Robert J. Madison, enrolled in the Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute, a much-needed private boarding school for African Americans, because Alabama did not provide education for Black children beyond the eighth grade. Mims’ maternal grandfather, William J. Edwards, was the founder of the school. A generation later, she, too, would attend Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute.
In the preface for his 1918 publication, Twenty-Five Years in the Black Belt, Edwards described the motivation for both the establishment of the school and the writing of the book:
In bringing this book before the public, it is my hope that the friends of the Snow Hill School and all who are interested in Negro Education may become more familiar with the problems and difficulties that confront those who labor for the future of a race. I have had to endure endless hardships during these twenty-five years, in order that thousands of poor negro youths might receive an industrial education, – boys and girls who might have gone into that demoralized class that is a disgrace to any people and that these friends may continue their interest in not only Snow Hill but all the schools of the South that are seeking to make better citizens of our people. I also hope that the interest may be sustained until the State and Nation realize that it is profitable to educate the black child as well as the white.
Mims’ bandleader and college professor father, her pianist mother, and her six musically inclined siblings all seem to have valued education as highly as did Edwards. After graduating valedictorian from Snow Hill Institute, Mims earned her undergraduate degree at Virginia’s Hampton Institute, where she met her future husband, Howard A. Mims. When she travelled to Cleveland, Ohio to pursue her Masters in Library Science at Western Reserve University, she benefited greatly from the hospitality of her extended family members, the Madisons.
After living and working for a time in Michigan, Dr. Howard A. Mims and Mrs. A. Grace Lee Mims settled permanently in Cleveland, where she worked for the Cleveland Public Library, and, by the 1960s, at Glenville High School—where she built an extensive Black Studies collection, coordinated a Black Arts Festival, designed a lecture course on Black history and culture, and continued to pursue a career as a classically-trained vocalist who never hesitated to perform the music of Black Americans, including jazz and spirituals.
The recipient of numerous awards and honors, including an honorary doctorate from Cleveland State University, Mims is also known for her service on the boards of numerous arts organizations, her work as a voice faculty member at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, and her programming activities at WCLV Radio, where she hosted “The Black Arts” for more than 40 years. Her good friend Robert P. Madison was a long-time program sponsor.
In the wake of Mims’ passing on October 4, 2019, I learned that Mr. Madison had asked staff members at WCLV about the possibility of obtaining a recording of a Black Arts program for which he served as a special guest. For a while it seemed that, with very little in the way of identifying information, including the programs theme and broadcast date, no one at radio station would be able to find that recording. Nevertheless, as one of Mims’ former students, I continued to reach out to family members, letting them know that I was interested in obtaining the Madison interview and anything else related to my teacher’s work in Cleveland.
On the evening of Saturday, February 22, 2020, the family member who is the executor of Dr. A. Grace Lee Mims’ estate invited me to come to her East Cleveland home to pick up a small box of arts-related material that might be of some value. Inside, among the approximately two-dozen recordings was a tape labeled “1/98 Black Arts, Leontyne Price w/ Robert Madison Interview.”
Listening to that January 7, 1998, recording at the Cleveland Institute of Music was almost like being in the same room with two good friends who really loved each other and their work. Someday soon, I hope to share digital copies of this recording with members of the Madison family and others.
Dr. A. Grace Lee Mims was an incredible educator and ambassador for Black history and culture, and we were blessed to have her with us for 89 wonderful years.
By Regennia N. Williams, PhD
On July 17, 1954, Robert P. Madison established his architectural firm. The opening, took place exactly three months after the Supreme Court’s Landmark decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which declared that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. The firm was located at 1335 East 105th Street in the Glenville, one of Cleveland’s most segregated neighborhoods.
In Designing Victory, A Memoir by Robert P. Madison with Carlo Wolff, Madison described the significance of the opening in the following manner:
The office of Robert P. Madison, Architect was the first one owned by a black man licensed to practice architecture in the state of Ohio. There were all sorts of celebrations and hoopla, and the Call & Post, a wonderful newspaper that largely served the black community did a lot of good things for me, like running articles about Madison the architect.
On, April 15, 2020, The State Library of Ohio and the Ohioana Library Association, with the Ohio Center for the Book and the Choose to Read Ohio Advisory Council, announced that Designing Victory, A Memoir had been selected as one of the 20 books for the 2021 & 2022 Choose to Read Ohio (CTRO) booklist. According to the announcement: “CTRO helps libraries, schools, families, book clubs, and others build communities of readers and an appreciation of Ohio authors, illustrators, and literature. CTRO promotes reading across the Buckeye State by encouraging Ohioans of all ages to read and share books created by native Ohioans and Ohio residents.”
The African American Archives Auxiliary of the Western Reserve Historical Society had already announced on April 1, 2020, that Designing Victory, A Memoir would be the focus of its global online reading initiative, “The World Reads with Cleveland,” and the Auxiliary looks forward to using the CTRO toolkit to introduce this book to more Ohioans. The announcements for both projects are included below.
By Pamela Dorazio Dean