The Crime

The Research

The Reasons

Sources

by Greg Fuller

 

The Research

The majority of my information was located in the city directory and the 1910 census, which showed that a few of the African American witnesses were born in the South and were recent immigrants to Cleveland. I found Isaac (Ike) Harland to be from Kentucky, Lester Jones from Cincinnati, Ed Harville from Tennessee, and George Wilson from Alabama. As mentioned, all witness' and players were located in the city directory excluding Emmit Johnson, which led me to believe he was a minor or a recent transplant. As for the census, I meticulously searched for each person but only found five of the eight witnesses, and had a very difficult time with common names such as Jones, Wilson, Johnson, and even Lyons and Moore.
My research became frustrating when I combed four of the seven existing newspapers of 1912. The Cleveland Citizen (1891-1977), Cleveland Gazette (1883-1945), Cleveland Leader (1892-1917) and the Cleveland Plain Dealer had not one account of the subsequent trial and, therefore, the verdict is unknown. Interestingly, the Cleveland Gazette, which catered to the African-American community, had no accounts of this black-on-black crime or any negativity in regard to their race. It instead spoke about how the community needed to stand together. It concentrated its attention on glorifying its race.
From the 1910 census, I was able to determine both the ethnicity of the witnesses and their place of residence, which shows me that the neighborhood of 13th and Webster was mostly residential, with a few storefronts at each corner. It also shows that the majority of these corner businesses were white-owned, but that blacks, Jews, and Italians lived in the neighborhood. Interestingly, these were the most recent ethnic groups to arrive in Cleveland.
The census research also shows that three of the witnesses were caucasian and four were African American. George Moore was a police officer; Frank Johanek was caucasian and owned a business; W.S. Lyons, was caucasian and owned a business; Ike Harland, an African American who had rheumatism and had been unemployed for six months; George Wilson, an African-American bartender; Emmit Johnson, an African-American laborer; Ed Harville, an African-American laborer who probably was later imprisoned. It seemed as though the influx of African Americans from the South were only able to find laboring jobs with low paying wages. The majority of the factory jobs were being snatched up by the Poles, Germans and other European immigrants. These factories supported the growing steel industry that provided steel for farm tools, carriage and buggy and more recently, the booming automobile industry.
Cleveland's black community was a quiet but growing presence, having increased from 1,300 in 1870, to 3,000 in 1890, to 8,500 in 1910. Migration from other states, especially from the south — part of a general move of rural inhabitants to cities before W.W.I — accounted for most of the growth. In contrast to the large and well defined postwar ghetto that would arise, African Americans prior to1915 were geographically quite dispersed.
Scovill Ave., 1938; Cleveland Press Collection, CSU LibraryCensus data for 1910 shows all but 17 of 155 census tracts on the East Side contained some black residents, and no tract was more than 25% black. Even in the growing black neighborhood at Central and Scovill, blacks were still a minority and lived in close proximity to white ethnic immigrants, especially Russian Jews and Italians. Also, as mentioned in Miller and Wheeler's Concise History, blacks were beginning to be excluded from hotels, restaurants and other public areas. For example, at the Luna Park resort, blacks were only allowed in on specified days. This general attitude towards African Americans and the negative trend of exclusion was reflected in the lack of newspaper coverage.
The fact that there was no newspaper coverage regarding this case shows that blacks were indeed being excluded, not only from public establishments, but also from the media. It is my perception that the white media said nothing about the case because there were no white players involved, which is a sad trend in the Cleveland newspapers and the media that followed. These anti-black sentiments, although subtle to some, reached the height of riots in such Northern cities as New York (1900), Springfield, Ohio (1904) and Springfield, Illinois (1908). Although Cleveland's treatment of African Americans was more subtle than elsewhere in the Midwest and less severe than the national trend, these incidents were increasing and, unfortunately, Cleveland was following suit.

The Reasons