A visit to New England put Cleveland on Margaret Bernstein’s mind. During a trip to Boston in 1993, the Plain Dealer writer took a black history tour of the city that inspired her to create the Cleveland African American Heritage Trail two years later. “We had Carl Stokes, the first black mayor of a major city, and [inventor] Garrett Morgan,” she says. “It was something that needed to happen.” While the contributions of Stokes and Morgan are part of the tour, here’s a peek at four of the other 14 stops along the way.
St John’s Episcopal Church
2600 Church St.
Historical Significance: Built in 1846, this church was known as “Station Hope” and was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad.
Fast Fact: Runaway slaves used to wait in the bell tower and watch for the signal to board the boats for Canada, according to tour guide Toni Chandler.
East 105th Street and St. Clair Avenue
Historical Significance: When a black Clevelander was unable to buy this McDonald’s, it led to a 1969 boycott that resulted in equal opportunities for franchise ownership.
Fast Fact: In 1995, there were more than 500 black millionaires because of the opportunity to own McDonald’s franchises, according to Chandler.
Jesse Owens Statue
Huntington Park, across from the Justice Center
Historical Significance: Created by William McVey in 1982, this statue commemorates Jesse Owens, who won four gold metals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Fast Fact: Born in Alabama, James Cleveland Owens moved here at age 7. He became a track star at East Tech high school and later Ohio State University. “He was called J.C.,” Chandler says. “But a teacher mistook his southern drawl for ‘Jesse.’ ”
6901 Woodland Ave.
Historical Significance: Woodland Cemetery is the final resting place of John P. Green, the founder of Labor Day. “He thought we should have a day off originally in Ohio,” Chandler says. “But the idea caught on.”
Fast Fact: Green was the first black member of the Ohio Senate.
Group tours are offered daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are $15 per person with a minimum of 25 patrons. Self-guided tours are available. Call (216) 322-3166 for more information.
Jesse Owens grew up here and ran for Ohio State.