The Crime

Cleveland's Webster Ave. Neighborhood

Immigration and Urbanization

Confession and Conclusions





by Sherry Maruna

"A gala holiday for colored people of Northern Ohio" claimed the headline of a newspaper advertisement for an "Emancipation Celebration" held in Cleveland, Ohio on August 2, 1909.. The advertisement ran in a newspaper directed at the African-American population in the city of Cleveland, a newspaper sold at F. Valentine's Grocery and several other locations on Central Avenue just two blocks from Webster Avenue. A few months after the "Emancipation Celebration" in a home on 1248 Webster Ave., a "colored" or "mulatto" woman, Sadie Santee, was shot four times and taken to Huron Road Hospital via Black and Wright's Ambulance Service around 2:00 am on October 2, 1909. The 5'8", 200 pound, green-eyed, black-haired "housekeeper" died upon arrival. This study is an attempt to piece together this murder case and also to explore what it reveals about the social, economic and cultural life for both African Americans and white people in Cleveland, Ohio and the United States during the early 1900's.

This murder may at first seem insignificant because the victim was not famous. Racial prejudice in America was part of the fabric of everyday life for both African-American and white citizens during the first few decades of the 20th century. Therefore, the newspapers did not follow Sadie Santee's murder. Its verdict was not front page or even second page news. The two leading daily newspapers, The Leader and the Cleveland Plain Dealer held to a policy that ignored African-American concerns and issues. However, that the murder took place was news and this in itself was indicative of the representation African Americans were receiving in Cleveland at this time.