Stokes Oral History Collection

Carl Stokes, and his brother Louis, were groundbreaking African-American politicians from Cleveland, Ohio. Carl Stokes became the first black mayor of a major U.S. city when elected in 1967. Louis Stokes was the first African-American congressman from Ohio when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968, a position he held for 15 consecutive terms. During Carl Stokes’ two mayoral terms, city hall jobs were opened to blacks and women, and a number of urban renewal projects initiated. Between 1983 and 1994 Carl Stokes served as municipal judge, and in 1994 was appointed by President Clinton as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Seychelles. Louis Stokes began his career as a civil rights attorney and helped challenge the Ohio redistricting in 1965 that fragmented African-American voting strength. In 1967, Louis Stokes argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Terry v. Ohio case, also known as the “stop-and-frisk” case. In the 1970s, Louis Stokes served as chair of the House Select Committee on Assassinations and in the 1980s was a noted member of the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. The interviews were conducted during 2017 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Carl Stokes’ election as mayor and the election of Louis Stokes to Congress. The collection includes video recordings of 38 individuals, transcripts, interview release forms, and protocols.

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