By the early 1960s, Cleveland was living on a constant edge of tension. Its Black community had grown exponentially and was restless over the lack of education, housing and representation. The situation culminated in the 1965 Hough Riot, a lesson to the town’s leaders that Cleveland was in need of dramatic change. And in its hour of consternation, it turned to a Black man named Carl Stokes to restore order to a broken city. Stokes narrowly won the 1967 mayor’s race to become the first Black leader of an American city.
Two years later, his brother Louis became the first Black man in Ohio to be elected to Congress, where he served until Jan. 3, 1999. A quiet man, Louis did not project the robust nature of his brother. Yet the two of them, each in his own way, helped create a lineage of minority leadership that still exists today, breaking the white monopoly on high-level power in Cleveland.