Cleveland Civil Disorders (1966 - 1968)

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In the mid 1960s, Cleveland, Ohio was the scene of several nationally prominent civil disturbances that were racially charged.

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960s, many African Americans and their supporters began to seek political, social and economic equality. With the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many people believed equality was attainable for African Americans. Nevertheless, a number of younger people believed that their futures remained bleak. Beginning in 1965, some civil rights activists rejected the nonviolent protests of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. Some of these people became quite outspoken, as they demanded equality in America.

Beginning in 1965, civil unrest became common in many Northern and Western cities. The most famous outbreak occurred in the Watts District of Los Angeles, California. There were a number of other violent incidents in other communities.

The first disturbance in Cleveland, the Hough Riots, lasted for several days in 1966, and the Cleveland police force proved ineffective in quelling the violence. It finally took 2,200 Ohio National Guardsmen to reestablish order. Arson fires destroyed several blocks of homes and businesses in the Hough neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. Four African Americans died. A grand jury assigned to investigate the riots concluded that outsiders had caused the disturbance. Another panel determined that, "The underlying causes of the rioting are to be found in the social conditions that exist in the ghetto areas of Cleveland."

On July 23, 1968, in what became known as the "Glenville Shootout," police officers and a number of African-American men confronted each other in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood, which was also on the city's east side. After an hour of violence, four blacks and three police officers had been killed. This incident set off forty-eight hours of additional violence, as looting, arson fires, and beatings occurred. Local authorities reestablished order in the city.

Many African-American residents in the eastern part of Cleveland believed that the city, state, and federal government officials were not meeting their needs. African Americans in other large cities across the country shared these sentiments. For much of the twentieth century, Cleveland's eastern neighborhoods had lacked business development and a declining population, as many residents, especially white ones, sought better lives in the suburbs. Many remaining residents developed a sense of hopelessness as their communities declined and the various levels of government failed to assist them. The Hough Riots, the Glenville Shootout, and Ohio's several other racial disturbances of the 1960s illustrate the lack of opportunity for many people, especially African Americans, in Ohio's major cities during this era. Other cities across the United States faced similar disturbances.


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