The ‘Messiah’ Mayor Who Believed in Cleveland When No One Else Did

Carl Stokes, the First African American to Lead a Big City, Was Both a Realist and a Showman

On June 24, 1969, the mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, Carl Stokes, held a press conference on a railroad trestle, one of two bridges damaged when an oil slick caught fire on the Cuyahoga River two days earlier. The coverage in local newspapers was minimal. The fire went out soon after it started. No one bothered to snap a picture. In fact, a Cleveland Press photo of the mayor standing on the tracks with reporters is as close as we can get to the blaze. It was almost a nonissue.

Almost. …

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The Black-Owned Alabama Plantation That Taught Me the Value of Home

After Emancipation, Ex-Slaves Took Over the Cotton Fields. Today Their Descendants Still Cherish the Land.

By the time I was eight years old, in 1948, my parents, my sister, and I had lived in five different states and had moved more often than that. My …