The Crime

Cleveland's Webster Ave. Neighborhood

Immigration and Urbanization

Confession and Conclusions


by Sherry Maruna



Immigration and Urbanization

Immigration, industrialization and urbanization need to be explored in a regional and national historic context to better understand the realities experienced by the people involved in the case. America in the early 1900's was experiencing rapid growth and change through the triad of immigration, industrialization and urbanization. The second wave of immigrants arriving between 1880 and WWI were mostly from Southern and Eastern Europe. The affect on the African-American population of this huge influx of people was a reduction in their proportion of the total population from 15% to less than 10% by 1920. African Americans represented only 1-2% of the total population of Cleveland before the Great Migration.

The Great Migration of African Americans from the American South to northern cities, though beginning with the institution of intimidation and segregation of African Americans by white Southerners following the Reconstruction Era, did not reach significant numbers until 1912 through 1919. The population in Cleveland had increased from 381,768 people in 1900 to 560,663 people in 1910 and approximately one-third of Clevelanders were foreign-born. These immigrants wereThe Hollenden Hotel, circa 1890 attracted to the large number of industrial jobs available in the Midwest. In 1910, there were an estimated 8,500 blacks in Cleveland and all but 17 of 155 Census tracts on the East Side contained some black residents, with no tract being more than 25% black.

This relatively small presence of African Americans in Cleveland was important because the area where the murder took place was intermixed with white, ethnic groups. In fact, the boarding house that Sadie Santee ran rented to both white and African-American boarders. Parrot and her brother, George Flood, were both white and claimed to have known Santee from their hometown of Chatham, Ontario in Canada. African Americans' presence in Cleveland was small at this time and racial discrimination (both socially and economically) was just beginning to surface. The urban environment was expanding beyond a "walking city," where job and home were in close proximity, to class-divided residential districts. The advent of the streetcar and the automobile provided mobility for the middle class to move outside the city limits into "suburbs." This left an "inner city" core that immigrants and African Americans filled.

The above statistics also illustrate an important designation between occupations of the residents in this area. While white immigrants were able to tap into the economic mainstream, African Americans were increasingly disenfranchised and forced into positions with low pay, little job security and no chance for advancement. Unappealing employment for African Americans offered by the city included spittoon cleaning, garbage hunting, street cleaning and truck driving.

Lizzie Parrot stated that Roy Lyons worked at the Hollenden Hotel. This hotel, which opened in 1885 and was open to both black and white patrons, provided employment with jobs such as servants, janitors, chauffeurs and porters. Yet Lyons suggested that he wrestled at the Empire Theater for extra money to pay rent. Prize fighting or boxing among African Americans as a form of entertainment, though cited as a sublimation of violent aggression, was also something the audience gambled on. For many African Americans, lack of legitimate economic opportunity created dissatisfaction, despondency and frustration. Increasingly, some African Americans were driven into careers of crime.

For an African American woman the job opportunities were slim. Three out of every ten black woman in Cleveland were domestic servants, a job that entailed long hours, low pay and a servile demeanor. Another occupation open to African American women, head of a boarding house, took advantage of the lack of housing in the rapidly growing city.

The population density of the Central Avenue-Scovill area in 1910 was 48 to 82 inhabitants per acre, as compared to Cleveland as a whole at 13 inhabitants per acre. Sadie Santee's 1248 Webster Ave. home boarded four people, George Flood, Lizzie Parrot, Roy Lyons and Thomas Maron. In 1905, in the approximate area that Sadie Santee lived, a house that rented for $15 a month and housed two lodgers at $1.25 per week saw two thirds of its rent paid by the lodgers. Lyons claimed to have given Santee as much as "$8, $9, $10 per week" during the summer when he was employed. It would appear that Santee's "sporting" or "hustling" was not her main source of income. Though one can only speculate, the credibility of Lyons' accusation that Santee, Parrot and even Santee's daughter who lived across the street were prostitutes is questionable.

Confession and Conclusions