Interview with Carl Stokes

What do you think your election symbolized? What do you think your election meant for Cleveland on that day, November 7, or really the morning of November 8, 1967?


My election on November the seventh, 1967 had a great deal of meaning to America because this was a city, first, that was, in which the Black population was, was a distinct minority of the city. At a time in which cities were a hotbed of racial animosity and hostility and literal conflagration with, uh, there'd been over 300 cities there within a three year period of time all had gone up in flames, including part of the city of Cleveland. It illustrated, uh, the ability of White people to vote for a Black candidate for mayor. To Black people it introduced a whole new echelon of political power. That now, instead of having to go and ask the White mayor for a job they could go to the Black mayor and expect a job. That in looking at a police department now they would know that they were, the police departments were no longer without someone who would have some say over what they did in the Black neighborhoods that now they'd have a Black mayor there. To Black civil rights people who had, uh, uh, arrived at the summit, uh, by achieving the, the, uh, '64 Civil Rights Act and the '65 Voters Rights Act, this represented, now, the next plateau for them to arrive at. And that is the involvement in the political process which then would enable, enable in a system in, to going into the, the true economics o--o--of the country. So there were a lot of, uh, reasons like that, and the historical significance that Black people in this election had indicated that their involvement in climbing the ladder of, uh, and, uh, toward ultimate participation in the mainstream of American society, was following the same process that had been gone through by the European immigrants that came here beginning in 1850s. And, and that we too, uh, would ultimately be involved in every level of political and economic power.