Neighborhood Remembers 1966 Riots with Candelight Vigil

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By Elizabeth Miller 

Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood on Monday remembered the riots that started 50 years ago and lasted for several days in 1966.  At a candlelight vigil, community members recalled their own experiences in Hough.

Hough resident Michael "Africa" Nelson was 13 at the time of the riots.

"You kind of know at that age – well how much can you know, but I didn’t like what was going on," said Nelson.

He says that although the neighborhood has recovered from the riots, some things have not.

"The mentality of a lot of things have not changed – we need to keep pressing forward," said Nelson.  "I saw the troops, I saw the fires, a lot of people say we burned our own neighborhood. A lot of people called it a riot, I call it a rebellion." 

Since then, Ward 7 Councilman TJ Dow says he welcomes new residents to the neighborhood.  "We are pro-development, we are pro-folks that live outside of Hough coming to live in Hough," said Dow.  "But we just want to make sure the folks that are here do not get pushed out."

The riots began on July 18, 1966, at a bar where the white owners refused a glass of water for a black patron and then hung a sign with a racial slur, but tension had been on the rise for years.  African-American residents complained of poorly maintained and overcrowded apartments, lack of city services, and police abuse.  During Monday’s candlelight vigil, community members took a moment to say a prayer for the future of Hough and ended with the raising of the Pan-African flag.  

You can check out ideastream’s coverage of Hough: Before and Beyond ’66 at www.ideastream.org/Hough.

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