Listen to the 1966 Civil Rights Commission Hearings in Cleveland

Image from the transcript of the hearings. (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Nick Castele / ideastream)

In April 1966, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights traveled to Cleveland to investigate the conditions facing African-American residents here. As a tape recorder rolled, commissioners grilled city officials and spoke with dozens of citizens.

They collected more than 30 hours of testimony describing the difficulty in finding good jobs and housing, the experience of attending segregated schools and encounters with police.

Most of that testimony is now available here, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration. 

Listen to the hearings

The commission focused the hearings around several topics: housing, health, welfare and education, employment and police-community relations. Follow the links below to listen to the hearings in full. Read along with the transcript here. 

Opening Remarks

The commissioners heard from Cleveland Mayor Ralph Locher and Ohio Gov. James Rhodes.


Closing Remarks

Carl Stokes, then a state representative, delivered a statement to the commission at the end of the hearings. The commission also received testimony from attorney John W. Reavis of Jones, Day, Cockley & Reavis.


Speaking to the commission in this file are Ruth Turner, the executive secretary of the Cleveland Congress of Racial Equality; A. A. Sommer, Jr., of the Mayor's Little Hoover Commission on Fiscal Matters; Dr. Kenneth W. Clement, former president of the Cleveland Urban League and former vice president of the Cleveland NAACP; Rev. Paul A. Younger, director of the Protestant Ministry to Poverty; Charles W. Rawlings, executive director of the Commission on Metropolitan Affairs and Council of Churches of Greater Cleveland; Rev. Donald Jacobs, president of the Cleveland NAACP.


1966 report: Cleveland's Unfinished Business in its Inner City

A group of Northeast Ohio attorneys and civic leaders, including Louis Stokes, published the first report from the hearings in June of 1966. This copy of the report is available at Cleveland Public Library. Read it below.


1967 report: The Still Unfinished Business in Cleveland's Inner City

A final version of the report was published in March 1967. The authors revisited their original findings in light of the Hough riots, which took place just weeks after the publication of their first report.


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