Stokes brothers to be honored with yearlong event series

The 50th anniversary of Carl Stokes’ election as mayor of Cleveland will be commemorated in 2017 with a yearlong series of events designed to inspire a new generation of community leaders.

The initiative will honor Mayor Stokes and his brother, Congressman Louis Stokes, and build on their legacy of leadership, advocacy and action. It seeks to use history as a guide for continued social and economic development in Greater Cleveland.

Carl, Louise and Louis Stokes
Carl, Louise and Louis Stokes

Louis and Carl Stokes were born and raised in the Central neighborhood. In 1938, the brothers moved to Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) Outhwaite Homes  with their mother, Louise. Louis Stokes attended Central High School. Both brothers have credited their time at Outhwaite with having a role in their success. In 2007, CMHA opened the Louis Stokes Museum in Outhwaite Homes. The museum houses Stokes memorabilia and is housed 4302 Quincy Avenue.

“The accomplishments of Mayor Stokes and Congressman Stokes advanced Cleveland and the nation, and their influence continues to resonate,” Tri-C President Alex Johnson said. “Their vision serves as a guide for a vibrant and prosperous future in our city.”

The commemoration will address a wide spectrum of issues through various activities, including music and theater performances, museum exhibits, academic conferences and an oral history project. A full calendar of events can be found on the Stokes 50 website.

Signature events include:

  • Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson discussing how Mayor Stokes and Congressman Stokes set the framework for the city’s long-term viability. “In Their Footsteps” will be held Jan. 25 at the Eastern Campus of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®).
  • A citywide “Day of Service” project in April focused on local military veterans. Mayor Stokes and Congressman Stokes both served in the U.S. Army.
  • A June performance at Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre celebrating the achievements of Mayor Stokes using his speeches and a musical score. “Believe in Cleveland” will convey the aspirations of Stokes amidst the tempestuous backdrop of the time period.
  • The November opening of a permanent exhibit at the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Cleveland History Center featuring pictures, oral histories and interactive displays that examine the legacy of the Stokes brothers.
Louis Stokes at the Stokes Museum at CMHA Outhwaite Homes
Louis Stokes at the Stokes Museum at CMHA Outhwaite Homes

“Mayor Stokes and Congressman Stokes changed the course of the city’s history,” said Lauren Onkey, chair and dean of Tri-C’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center. “In looking back at their accomplishments, we want to look forward. Our goal for this community-wide commemoration is for their work to serve as a catalyst to develop new leaders and ideas for Cleveland’s future.”

Carl Stokes overturned racial barriers in 1967 while becoming the first African-American to be elected mayor of a major American city. He served two terms while advancing an agenda that still serves as a foundation for Cleveland.

His brother, Louis Stokes, turned to politics after making a profound impact on the civil rights movement as a lawyer. He won election as Ohio’s first African-American congressman in 1968 and served 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Together, Carl and Louis Stokes made history while setting the framework for the long-term viability of Cleveland.

The commemoration is being led by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®), the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Foundation, Greater Cleveland Partnership and The City Club of Cleveland.