Notes & Comments: Public History Partnerships through the Teaching American History Program

By: Gregory Wilson, University of Akron
Publication Director, Northeast Ohio Journal of History

Schools, colleges, universities, museums and other institutions across Northeast Ohio are building creative partnerships with one another through the federal government’s Teaching American History grant program. Begun in 2001 and funded through the Department of Education, each grant is for a three-year period. The goals of the national professional development program for elementary and secondary teachers are to improve the quality of American history instruction and generate student interest and performance in American history as a distinct subject within social studies. The Teaching American History grant program represents a major public history initiative across the country and Northeast Ohio has been well-represented within it, receiving 40 percent of the grants in Ohio. Since the program began, there have been 539 projects funded across the country. Of these, 20 have been in Ohio and the 8 projects in Northeast Ohio are highlighted below. Continue reading Notes & Comments: Public History Partnerships through the Teaching American History Program

Notes & Comments: The Cleveland Memory Project: an On-line Database for Research and Education

By: William C. Barrow, Cleveland State University
Chair, The Greater Cleveland History Digital Library Consortium

The Cleveland Memory Project, (, is a digital library of texts, images, sound, and video on the history of greater Cleveland and the Western Reserve region of northeastern Ohio. Over 17,000 images, the complete contents of two dozen local area history books, and a growing number of audio and video files are available free of charge for use by patrons world-wide.

Hosted by the Cleveland State University Library, Cleveland Memory draws upon the Library’s valuable holdings in Special Collections, augmented by materials provided by institutional and individual partners. For example, Special Collections is the home to the Cleveland Press Collection, whose half-million photographs are sampled in Cleveland Memory. Another collection, the Cleveland Union Terminal Collection, has contributed nearly 6,000 images of the Terminal Tower complex under construction in the 1920s. Continue reading Notes & Comments: The Cleveland Memory Project: an On-line Database for Research and Education

Notes & Comments: Thinking About Regions

By: Gregory Wilson, University of Akron
Publication Director, Northeast Ohio Journal of History

The Northeast Ohio Journal of History bills itself as a regional enterprise. However, this masks the many complexities involved in defining a region. Of course, the concept of a region is a human creation, an effort to simplify discussions of disparate events, or to generalize about certain trends, issues, and events noticed in various local or state locations. Within the history of the United States, writers have made great and frequent use of regions: the West, the Great Lakes, Appalachia, the Northwest, the Great Plains, the South and so on. By its nature, defining a region means creating an entity that is unique in some fashion, different from other places around it according to some combination of cultural, economic, environmental, political, or social attributes. Regional boundaries are fluid, flexible, and porous and thus it is a matter of debate as to what is or is not part of a region. For example, the South usually refers to the 11 states that seceded in 1861; yet at times, historians have expanded this to include West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Oklahoma. Including 11 makes the South a region defined politically by secession, but including 4 others means historians must go beyond political categories and search for other attributes that bind together people and places. In the case of the South, what makes the 4 others “southern”? The former presence of slavery? Accents and words in the language? Food and folkways?  Geographic features? Economic data? Again, there are multiple factors at work in defining places as regions. Continue reading Notes & Comments: Thinking About Regions

Notes & Comments: The Akron Fair Housing Case

By: Thomas Powell, State University of New York, Emeritus

Editor’s Note:
In January of 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case in which the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, a builder of low-income housing, sued the city of Cuyahoga Falls for delaying construction of a housing project-an action they claimed was motivated in part by issues of discrimination. Although three months later the court overturned a lower court ruling and found in favor of the city,[1.  City of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio et al. v. Buckeye Community Hope Foundation et al. No. 01-1269. A copy of the decision can be found through the FindLaw website at Briefs for the case are at] the case illustrates the continuation of long-standing divisions concerning race and residence in this Northeast Ohio Community.

Nearly forty years before the recent Supreme Court decision, Cuyahoga Falls was the focus of another lawsuit over discrimination and housing: Mercer Brancher et al. v. The Akron Area Board of Realtors et al., also known as “The Akron Fair Housing Case.” Thomas Powell, a former University of Akron professor and resident of Cuyahoga Falls at the time, here presents a first-hand account of his family’s role in the development of this case. Powell has chosen to write his account in the first person, present tense in order to impart the sense of “bite” and immediacy he felt as an eyewitness to these events. Given recent events, his stylistic choice seems particularly appropriate-even after forty years, some of the basic issues he discusses still have currency today.

Kevin Kern

Continue reading Notes & Comments: The Akron Fair Housing Case

Notes & Comments: Prospectus: The Northeast Ohio Consortium

By: Kevin Kern, The University of Akron


Northeast Ohio is exceptionally rich in important historical resources and collections among its major universities, libraries, and museums. Among the most notable of these are the Cleveland Public Library (one of the nation’s largest and with ready access to the city’s municipal records), Cleveland State University (housing a number of archival and archaeological resources including the Cleveland Press Collection), the Cleveland Visiting Nurse Association, the Western Reserve Historical Society (boasting scores of important regional collections), and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (housing the Hamann-Todd osteological collection–the largest of its kind anywhere in the world). Some of these collections have already produced significant scholarly work, while others have only begun to be tapped by serious investigators.

As valuable as these resources are individually, however, there is even greater potential for innovative and interdisciplinary use of these materials. Continue reading Notes & Comments: Prospectus: The Northeast Ohio Consortium

Notes & Comments: Cleveland: Success City in Promoting Public Office

By: Melvin G. Holli, University of Illinois at Chicago

PATHWAYS TO POWER: or The Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City

Is the big-city mayoralty a “stepping stone to higher ground” as the Reverend Jesse Jackson asserted when Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington, was elected, or is it as New York scholar Wallace Sayre declared in his famous “Sayre’s Law” a dead-end job whereby Gotham’s mayors “come from anywhere and go nowhere”?[1. Jesse Jackson quoted in Anne Keegan, “Will Wise Words Outlast the Hot Ones?” Chicago Tribune 25 February 1983. For Sayre’s law see Wallace S. Sayre and Herbert Kaufman, Governing New York City (New York: Norton, 1965), 686-87. The chapter subtitle and text references to the “yellow brick road to Emerald City” come from L. Frank Baum’s Journey Through Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (New York: Derrydale Books, 1990).]

In seeking an answer to that question, I examined the upward political mobility of all of the mayors who served between 1820 and 1980 in the fifteen big cities. (The fifteen big cities were selected from those with the longest duration in the top fifteen population class for the period under study). In the search that includes 679 biographies found in the Bibliographical Dictionary of American Mayors, we find that Cleveland, with its seven “success” mayors, emerges as something of a nursery for growing national leaders. In second place is Detroit with five upward achievers, followed by San Francisco and Boston with four, and then Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York with three apiece, which covers the top half of the big cities studied. At the very bottom of the post-mayoral achievement scale are Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles with a mere one each.[2. The cutoff date for measuring upward mobility corresponds to that of the Biographical Dictionary of American Mayors, 1820-1980s eds. Melvin G. Holli, Peter d’A. Jones (West Port, Ct.: Greenwood, 1981). Thus, Baltimore’s success mayors do not count William D. Schaefer nor does Cleveland count George Voinovich who became governors of their states after that date.] Continue reading Notes & Comments: Cleveland: Success City in Promoting Public Office