Adventures written by the VAMONDE Team
In the years immediately following the end of World War II, many cities with industries based on manufacturing saw an increase in wealth and economic prosperity. However, racial tension simmered beneath the polished facade. Within a decade, it had boiled over into violence. As the river of wealth in the 1950s slowed to a trickle in the 1960s, economic growth favored the suburbs. White people who had the resources to leave Hough moved into the suburbs. In 1950, only 5 percent of the residents of Hough were black. By 1966, the percentage of the black population had risen to 88 percent.
At this same time, the railroad and steel industries restructured their operations, and many workers in Hough lost their jobs. The unemployment rate in Hough was twice that of the rest of the city. The eastern end of Cleveland sunk into hopelessness and despair as the remaining residents observed more privileged individuals and families leave to follow better opportunities.
On July 18, 1966, tensions erupted when a black man was denied a glass of water at the white-owned establishment of the Seventy-Niners Cafe located on the corner of E. 79th Street and Hough Ave. Police were unable to control the situation, and anger escalated into what is now called The Hough Riots. Four people died, 30 injured, and 300 arrested. The neighborhood was vandalized and looted, and the Sidaway Bridge was destroyed as its flooring was ripped out and set on fire. First-time drone footage from 2019 reveals what remains today. The bridge has not been used since the uprising.
According to an article posted on Cleveland.com, the 1967 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder reported that, “segregation and poverty created in racial ghettos a destructive environment unknown to white Americans.” However, a grand jury decided that the riot was the fault of black nationalists.
Hough is still rebuilding. The historical homes are recently renovated, and a monument stands on the corner of the vacant lot where the Seventy-Niners Cafe used to be, with a plaque that reads, “Hough is on a comeback trail. This is a new day in Hough.” Entrepreneurial investments are improving community-based economic development in Hough. For example, The Economic and Community Development Institute located in Hough provides business loans and educational workshops. Community members still remember the protest, and they continue to work toward better lives and equality.
Cover image: "Colorful Urban Animal Mural" by farrellink licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.