Black History Month

January 17, 2018
Black History Month

This February, Make Tribute to African American Clevelanders Who Helped Create Positive Change and Innovation

   
   

During 2018 Black History Month, take a moment to memorialize and make tribute to African American Clevelanders who helped to create positive change and innovation in the city and beyond.

It all started in 1809 with Cleveland’s first black resident, George Peake. Later, the city was home to many important black leaders including social worker Jane Edna Hunter, political leader Madison Tilley and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

And, the critical keystones that make Cleveland what it is today would not be possible without the legacy left to us by brothers Louis and Carl Stokes – long-time Congressman and the first black mayor of a major U.S. city (respectively).

During this Black History Month, we encourage visitors of all races, background, ethnicities and creeds to explore Cleveland’s rich diversity.

Take some time to get to know these two famous Clevelanders and visit the very places that memorialize their contributions:

Garrett Morgan
Ever wondered who invented the gas mask and the electric traffic lights? That would be Clevelander Garrett Morgan.

Although born and raised in Cincinnati, Morgan found his way to Cleveland in 1895 and later began a career in the sewing machine business. While learning the ins and outs of the industry, Morgan invented a sewing machine belt that he sold for $50. And, so launched his focus on innovation.

Later success had him owning/operating at tailoring company that employed 32 people to manufacture clothing. But it was after witnessing a tragic carriage accident at a busy intersection that led to the invention of the first electric traffic signal, that included a light to warn drivers that they’d need to stop.

In addition to the traffic signal, Morgan invented something he called a “safety hood,” which was essentially a breathing masked that helped people to get oxygen when they were exposed to large amounts of harmful fumes, smoke or pollutant. His product was the prototype to the gas masks used during WWI combat.

And, to think, these were just some of Morgan’s inventions.

If you’re visiting Cleveland, make your way to the Cleveland History Center where the “Setting the World in Motion” exhibit is dedicated to Garrett Morgan’s inventions.

Jesse Owens
Defying Hitler’s Aryan race theory right in Nazi Germany’s very own backyard? If you were Jesse Owens, you already accomplished this by age 23.

Backtrack to 1928: The young Jesse Owens was a star track athlete in his home of Cleveland—clearing six feet in the high jump and leaping almost 23 feet in the broad jump. To say he was a superstar would be an understatement.

By 1935, he elected to play track at the Ohio State University, where he became the very first African American varsity team captain. Unfortunately, because Owens was black, he was not permitted to live in campus dorms.

That same year, Owens competed in the Big Ten Championships in Michigan. Just a few nights before, he’d injured his back—making it nearly impossible to bend in half. Despite this, Owens fought through the pain.

The result: He set world records in the 100-yard dash, 220-yard dash and the 20-yard low hurdles and then he exceeded the world long jump record by almost six inches. And he did it all in a matter of about 45 minutes.

It was that very feat that helped him earn the confidence to enter the 1936 Summer Olympics. Great, right? Well, the 1936 Olympics were scheduled for Nazi Germany under Hitler’s rule. In fact, Hitler made it clear that the Olympics would support his claim that the Aryan race would reign most successful.

Owens gave Hitler the ultimate FACE by dominating the Olympics and winning four gold medals. He returned home to a ticker tape parade and national notoriety.

If you’re in Cleveland, make your way to the corner of West 3rd St. and Lakeside Ave. to Fort Huntington Park. There, you’ll find a memorial for Jesse Owens, as well as other Cleveland heroes.

EVENTS

Several institutions around town are hosting Black History Month-related programming:

“March: Book One” and “March: Book Two” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Feb. 1 at 4 p.m.
Cleveland Public Library Main – Literature Department
Book reading and discussion

The History of the Underground Railroad in Ohio
Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Independence Branch
Civil War historian Paul Goebbel will discuss while wearing period costume.

Women in History: Mary Elizabeth Bowser
Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Maple Heights Branch
An actress from “Women in History” will portray the Union spy.

Hall of Fame Series with DJ Yella and Lil Eazy
Feb. 7 at 7 p.m
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Foster Theater
2016 Rock Hall inductee, DJ Yella of the seminal hip hop group N.W.A., and Lil Eazy E, whose father was a member of the group, will sit down with V.P. of Education and Visitor Experience, Dr. Jason Hanley, for a free discussion on their careers, influence and impact. Afterward, the event will include a Q&A session and DJ demonstration. (Free; 8 ticket limit per transaction)

African-American Read-In
Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Warrensville Heights Branch
Connect with readers of all ages through books written by African American authors.

Kinsman Dazz Band and DJ Ellery
Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Klipsch Audio Main Stage
In 1980, the Kinsman Dazz became The Dazz Band and was signed to Motown Records. Their hit single, “Let It Whip,” received the Grammy for "Best Performance by Duo or Group” in 1983. The Kinsman Dazz Band, hailing from Cleveland, will take the main stage for a high-energy dance party to be followed by one of the most versatile and high-energy DJs in Northeast Ohio, DJ Ellery. ($10; 8 ticket limit per transaction)

Sing for Freedom
Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Richmond Heights Branch
Muszikat-Shalom will perform music from the civil rights movement and discuss events from the era.

“Fences” by August Wilson
Feb. 14 at 2 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Warrensville Heights Branch
Book discussion.

“Black Panther & The Crew 1: We Are the Streets” by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Yona Harvey "Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet: Book 1" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Feb. 15 at 4 p.m.
Cleveland Public Library Main – Literature Department
Book reading and discussion

Reflections of a Resolute Radical
Feb. 16 at 6 p.m.
Cleveland Public Library Main – Louis Stokes Wing
A founding member of the Revolutionary Action Movement (forerunner of the Black Panther Party), organizer of Cleveland’s Afro-American Institute, former director of the League Park Community Center and a grassroots activist brings 1960s Cleveland to life.

Author Visit: Angie Thomas
Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.
Cleveland Public Library Main – Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium
Angie Thomas, acclaimed author of “The Hate U Give,” will discuss her bestselling YA novel. Expected to be a popular event; arrive promptly at 1 p.m.

Women in History: Josephine Baker
Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Brook Park Branch
Actress Vernice Jackson from “Women in History” will portray the international star and civil rights activist.

Sing for Freedom
Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Fairview Park Branch
Muszikat-Shalom will perform music from the civil rights movement and discuss events from the era.

Film Screening of “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap”
Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Foster Theater
Ice-T travels coast to coast interviewing rap performers such as Q-Tip, Common and Kanye West to pay tribute to the musical art form. ($5.50; 8 ticket limit per transaction)

Celebrate Black History Month
Feb. 24 at 2 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Warrensville Heights Branch
The Ecumenical Disciples Choir will perform African-American gospel music and spirituals.

An Evening of Excellence
Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.
Cleveland Public Library – Rice Branch
Celebrate achievements and contributions of outstanding African-Americans with live jazz music, a youth performance and light refreshments and a motivational presentation by keynote speaker Romona Robinson, Cleveland news anchor and author of an inspirational memoir “A Dirt Road to Nowhere.”

“Jane Crow: the Life of Pauli Murray” by Rosalind Rosenberg
Feb. 26 at 12 p.m.
Cleveland Public Library - Main
Brown bag lunch and book discussion.

“Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly
Feb. 26 at 2:30 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Strongsville Branch
Book discussion.

“Called to Rise: A Life in Faithful Service to the Community That Made Me” by David O. Brown
Feb. 27 at 7:15 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Southeast Branch
Book discussion.

Click here to view Cleveland Historical’s African American self-guided tour through Cleveland.

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