Among the many racially-charged riots and disturbances of the sixties, the Hough (Huff) Riots of 1966 were the first in an Ohio city. On this day, Mayor Ralph Locher declared a state of emergency in the Hough neighborhood to restore order. The city’s neglect of the area ultimately led to the election of Cleveland’s first Black mayor, Carl Stokes.
Hough was once a predominately white district, but by the ’60’s, it had become 90 percent Black. Tensions in the neighborhood between residents and police were high that summer. The impetus of the riots has varied origins, but it’s believed that a white-owned business, the Seventy-Niner’s Cafe, was the site of illicit activity such as prostitution and other crimes.
Allegedly, a man went into the store to ask for a glass of water, but was told that the store didn’t serve Black people and used a racial epithet to illustrate the point. The news spread to the neighborhood, who gathered at the cafe and began rioting and looting on July 18. The next day, Mayor Locher brought in the National Guard but that only served to escalate the conflict as neighborhood residents tossed rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails.
The riots raged on until they were finally quelled on July 23. In the end, four Blacks were killed and 50 people were injured. Further, the already economically distressed region would have a tough pathway to revitalization. But with the help of liberal whites and Blacks tired of the regime, Stokes was elected, but Hough’s circumstances barely improved.
50 years later, the Hough neighborhood has seen some positive change – a drop in crime and unemployment coupled with a rise in graduation rates and new housing development.
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