Interview with Carl Stokes
QUESTION 13
LOUIS MASSIAH:

Now, um, we're moving into the general election and there are series of debates. The first debate you did very well at. And then the second debate, at, uh, I think it was John Marshall High School on the west side, there was a little bit of a controversy based on a statement you made explicitly bringing race into the campaign. Could you talk about that night as you remember it? Louis Seltzer is the moderator and Seth Taft, your opponent is next to you? What happened, I mean, how, how, how, how did it happen?

CARL STOKES:

Few people recall from the night of the debate at John Marshall what, uh, preceding information there had been, uh, about a conversation that Seth Taft and I had had at my law office the day of the debate in which S--Seth Taft had come to me and had, uh, entered into a discussion about whether or not, uh, uh, I would either--well, wait a minute. Why don't you hold it a minute, let me recollect that.



LOUIS MASSIAH:

We're at the second, there were a series of debates, we're at the second debate at John Marshall High School on the west side. Why did you bring up the subject of race at that debate?

CARL STOKES:

The debate at John Marshall occurred in an area of the city which is a hotbed of, uh, hostile racial attitudes and, and, uh, uh, anti-Black uh, experiences. The audience that night was a-about 98 percent White and drawn from the John Marshall High School area. During the course of the debate, for whatever reason it is--today I can't recall--but I recall saying to Seth Taft, "Seth, you've acknowledged to me that as a Republican, uh, who doesn't live in the city of Cleveland that the primary thing you rely upon in being able to win this race is the fact that you're White and I'm Black." At that moment there was a great outpouring of protest from this audience I've described to you. And, uh, when the moderator was able to get them to subside a little bit, Seth Taft, who we subsequently learned, had been well coached that if some statement like this was made, retorted: "Well, well, well, Carl. So now we really have the real issue out on the table. It's not fair for me to talk about race, but you can talk about it." And then of course there was once again a great reaction from the White crowd there. The next day the news media focused entirely upon that reaction and, and termed that I had injected race into the campaign.