The History of the Ghetto in Cleveland

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Cleveland is one of the major cities in the Ohio state in the United States of America. The city is also the administrative center or capital city for the Cuyahoga County. Cleveland is said to have a proper population of 388,072; this makes it the second largest city in the state of Ohio and the 51st biggest city in the United States of America. Cleveland city was named in 1796, and it was also laid out to be a capital city, the major expansion and growth of the city began in 1832 after the completion of the canal that connected the city and the Atlantic Ocean, the canal was known as the Ohio and Erie Canal. The expansion and growth of the city continued as the products that were produced in the city were able to reach markets in the Gulf of Mexico, there was also the development of the railroad network system in the Cleveland making it be incorporated into a city in 1836. One of the reasons which have made the city to develop rapidly as a commercial hub is its strategic geographical positioning and the elaborate transportation system. In 1920, the city was said to be the 5th

largest city in the country, there was enormous economic growth, and there were prominent leaders who came from the city making it be one of the most popular cities in the nation. Industrial job opportunities in the city were also increasing; this attracted a wave of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe and migrants from the south who included whites and blacks. In the 1940s, most businesses had set up in Cleveland, and the city was said to be the best location in the country to conduct any form of business (Miggins, 2014). However, in the 1960s, the economic growth slowed down, because of this, many people in the city sought alternative housing plans in the suburbs of the city. This reflected the trends that were being experienced nationally on the growth of suburbs which was as a result of subsidized highways. However, the city suffered economically after the industrial restructuring that took place in the late 1960s and 1970s. Majority of the workers who worked in industries such as the railroad industry and the steel industry lost their jobs. Cleveland city became the first city in the United States of America after the great depression to default the federal loans. Policies that had been adopted by the federal government such as the free trade policies and the rates of inflation that were rising. In 1983, unemployment in the city peaked at the rate of 13.8 percent, and this is attributed to the closure of different steel processing factories in the city. Since the start of the 21st century, the city has worked on ways to improve its economic standards and its infrastructure. However, there have the economic impacts felt due to mass unemployment caused by industrial restructuring has affected the city and made many people live in deplorable conditions in ghetto settings.

            A ghetto is a region of the city, particularly where there are slums and which are inhabited by a minority group. In most cases, people living in a ghetto are said to be segregated, isolated or restricted by occupants of the other parts of the city. In Cleveland, ghetto establishments were developed during the period of industrial restructuring when many people lost their jobs. It should also be noted that the events that were taking place during this time at the city were charged racially. Because of this, the African-American community that was found in Cleveland was known to be the Central community of Cleveland; it was considered to be the community that occupied the east side of Cleveland, the area that was between the Woodland Avenue and the Euclid Avenue (Harris, Smith & Hayes, 2016). Because of this, many African-American activists led demonstrations and developed strategies that were aimed at ensuring that the rights of the blacks were preserved from this region. Central Avenue was considered to be the primary part of the community and where significant operations were conducted. Due to unemployment and unfavorable economic conditions, many of the members of the African-American community who lived in the area lived in areas where access to amenities was limited, and the living conditions were deplorable. Cleveland’s ghetto started to develop from this period, the ghetto in Cleveland began to expand to the neighborhoods of East Side which include Fairfax which covers the areas of Quincy street and Cedar street.

            In relation to the racial discrimination and segregation, Cleveland and its occupants were among the first abolitionists who made many members of the African-American community move to the area. Before the 1840s and 1850s, members of the African-American community faced a lot of discrimination from the whites who were the majority. Some of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the blacks had been curtailed by the oppressive laws that had been established for the blacks. For instance, during this time, the African-Americans were not allowed to vote, they were also not allowed to hold any public office, and they were not also allowed to serve in the army in any rank (Wood, 2017). It should also be noted that the blacks had been barred from testifying against the whites in any form of court cases. The occupants of Cleveland however, were among the first people to adopt regulations that were seen as tolerant to members of the black community. Because of this, a lot of the members of the African-American community moved to Cleveland because the conditions in this region at least favored them as compared to the conditions in other regions or cities. States in the south such as Alabama were seen as the most intolerable states, and this made many black people move from the southern states to Cleveland. Before other regions adapted policies that allowed the members of the black community to enjoy some rights and freedoms, the state had adopted laws which made African Clevelanders to enjoys rights that were almost equal to those that were enjoyed by the whites. At the same time, the city was developing at an impressive rate, and the living conditions were better as compared to other regions. There were also factories and industries in the region which made it possible for many black people to move into the state to look for ways to better the condition for their lives. This way, Cleveland ghetto began to develop and expand as more members of the minority groups who were seeking better living conditions moved into the city.

            Before the economic disturbances that took place in Cleveland, many people had moved into the city between 1920 and 1940 because there were a lot of employment opportunities and the living conditions in the city were favorable. Most of the people who were moving into the city moved into Cleveland’s East Side area, people who moved into Cleveland moved from the states that were in the south such as Alabama. This made the perception that people had on the new communities which had moved into the city to change, particularly, the views that people had on towards the black community changed. The black people who were a minority in the city began to be segregated in public places, employers adopted a policy not to hire black employees, and those who had been hired got fired. Some of the African-Americans who had been hired and had taken up senior management in different industries were demoted or fired from their positions. The segregation and restrictions that the African-American individuals were facing were extended to the housing sector, the blacks who had moved into the area began to live in segregated ghetto areas. The African community in the city had expanded into Fairfax by 1940; however, at this time, there were smaller communities that were living in the neighborhoods of S. Lee, Miles Heights, Hough and Mt. Pleasant. Other members of the black community occupied the areas of Kinsman and 79th Street. As the populations of the minority blacks grew in the city, housing projects in the Central neighborhood began to be established between the 1930s and 1940s. Some of the projects that were developed under this housing plan include; the Cedar and the Outhwaite housing Estates. In the 1940s, the county established the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority; this made it possible for more housing projects to be created throughout Cleveland city (Onwuachi-Willig, 2016). Some of the housing complexes that were established under the watch of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Authority include; the Valley View, Woodhill, and some other housing complexes were established at the Central neighborhood in the Cleveland city.

            The Hough and Glenville communities began to occupy in the 1960s, during this time, the mistreatment of the Cleveland ghetto was at its peak. The people who had moved into these communities decided to stand against the segregation and discrimination of individuals who were occupying the Cleveland ghetto. The activities and protests that took place in the region gained nationwide attention, for instance, the Hough Riots and the Glenville Shootout were a point of attention in the whole nation. Cleveland ghetto in the parts of the East Sides was mainly associated with black people who had moved from the states in the south. In the 1970s a majority of the people who occupied the East Side of Cleveland city were African-Americans. The blacks also settled in some parts of the West Side, the parts in the West Side that the African-Americans inhabited include the areas neighboring Clark Avenue and the W.25th. This made the Cleveland ghetto communities continue developing and occupying different communities and areas within the city. The segregated communities, especially the African-American people took advantages of the housing complexes that were being developed and to make sure that they establish their zones where they cannot be discriminated against. One of the major reasons that made the Cleveland ghetto to be established rapidly in the 1970s was the housing projects which were being carried out by the county’s housing authority. For instance, Lake View Terraces and the Valley View Homes had started as settlement areas for whites and their families, however, with time, the members of the African-American community moved into the complexes and occupied them.

            The Hough neighborhood is considered to be one of Cleveland’s largest areas; the area is located between Superior and Chester. This area represents the Cleveland’s West Side ghetto, in this area, Latino and Puerto Rican communities predominantly here. According to statistics, this ghetto is said to have the largest Puerto Rican communities. Members of the Puerto Rico community, just like the African-American community occupied the East Side of the Cleveland. However, the Puerto Rican community moved westwards and held the West Side. They moved towards the West Side in areas that surrounded Clark-Fulton, this is because they wanted to move closer to the factories that were near these areas so that they could easily secure jobs and once they had secured the posts, they wanted to make sure that they were able to get to their areas of work with easy. This led to the expansion of the Cleveland ghetto into the West Side of Cleveland city (Michney, 2017). Just like the African-Americans, the Latinos and Puerto Rico communities were able to settle in these areas because of the housing projects and complexes that had been developed by the county’s housing authority. The members of communities that are considered to be a minority in Ohio state and the United States occupy the Cleveland ghetto because of the segregation and discrimination that they faced from majority groups such as the whites.

            The areas on the West Side Cleveland ghetto have developed over time, and this is attributed to the different housing projects which have led to the construction of new house units and the adoption of the modern era streets. The areas around the W. 25th Street in the Cleveland ghetto are majorly made up of Latin Kings and their Maniac disciples who are members of the Latino community as well. Apart from the Puerto Rican community in the West Side of the Cleveland ghetto, there are also communities of the blacks and Latinos. For instance, Detroit areas of 81st to 95th, Mad House that is along the Madison Avenue, Bellaire area, Lake View projects of W. 28th and Bosworth (Logan et al., 2015). Because of the interaction of different communities in these areas, “Down Tha Way” area on the East Side of the Cleveland ghetto is said to be one of the busiest active neighborhood areas in the Cleveland ghetto. There have been changes which have occurred that have made the place to be the most active place in the Cleveland ghetto neighborhood, for instance, the use of new streets and new housing models; the region has been able to become the most active areas in the Cleveland ghetto. Currently, “Down Tha Way” is made up of Cedar estates, compound, Woodland and Case Court. These are some of the housing complexes that have changed the way the area is presented. From the different developments and demographical factors, Cleveland ghetto has been divided into two areas, the East Side and the West Side. However, the East Side has been divided into various sections.

            Looking at the history of the Cleveland ghetto, we also need to consider the impacts that the growth had on the other communities that occupy the Cleveland city. One of the characteristic features which were synonymous with the development of the ghetto was the creation of gangs. Some members of the communities that settled in the Cleveland ghetto, both in the West Side and in the East Side got involved outlaws. Even before the 1980s, some of the outlawed organizations had been developed. For instance, on the East Side, local cliques such as the Dynamite devils and the Brick City sects had been operational (Olson, 2017). On the West Side, outlawed sects had been formed by the Puerto Rican members of the community who were the majority occupants of Cleveland’s ghetto. Some of the sects that had been created in the West Side include; the Jefferson Park gang and the Halloran Park gang, the gangs on the West Side had been named according to the parks where the members of the outlawed gangs hang out. After 1980, the Cleveland ghetto gangs that had been formed by members from the Latino communities and the African-American communities got affiliations from the gangs that operated in big cities such as Chicago and the Los Angeles. Because of these affiliations, the new gangs that were being formed in the Cleveland ghetto began a new era. They started using tactics that they were learning from established groups and they also were controlled by other gangs that were quite powerful. This made it harder for the authorities to suppress the outlawed communities. As we moved towards the 2000s, the outlawed gangs developed more affiliations and also expanded the activities that they were conducted as well as their areas of operation.

            Even though the outlawed gangs in Cleveland ghetto have developed major affiliations with cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, the groups have had an insignificant impact on the Cleveland ghetto. Since majority of the members of the African-American community, the Latino communities and the Puerto Rican communities moved into the Cleveland ghettos because of the employment opportunities and the favorable living conditions, the job opportunities and better living conditions have been dwindling in the recent past making it difficult to live in the area (Logan et al., 2015). Because of this, many people have been moving to different areas, and this has had implications for the population of the Cleveland ghetto. The people of the ghetto is above 385,000 people; however, this population has been rapidly decreasing. Occupants of the Cleveland ghetto have been moving into various areas within the Cuyahoga county such as the Cleveland Heights, Euclid, the Maple Heights and the other regions that are not found within the Cleveland ghetto and East Side.

            Majority of the blacks, Latinos and Puerto Ricans had moved into Cleveland to improve their lives and enjoy better living conditions. Because of this, the Cleveland ghetto settlement, at the beginning a majority of blacks moved into the city to avoid racial segregation which was rampant in other areas of the country. Later, members of other communities who occupied the Cleveland ghetto moved into the city to look for employment opportunities and improved conditions of living. The Cuyahoga County also put initiatives which saw the establishment of housing complexes that helped in the development of the Cleveland ghetto. However, economic challenges and the dwindling employment opportunities have made the Cleveland ghetto populations to decrease.


Harris, B. J., Smith, D. T., & Hayes, C. (2016). Just Do What We Tell You. In Unhooking from Whiteness (pp. 101-116). SensePublishers, Rotterdam.

Logan, J. R., Zhang, W., Turner, R., & Shertzer, A. (2015). Creating the black ghetto: Black residential patterns before and during the Great Migration. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 660(1), 18-35.

Logan, J. R., Zhang, W., Turner, R., & Shertzer, A. (2015). The seeds of the black ghetto were sown in the 1880s, long before the Great Migration. USApp–American Politics and Policy Blog.

Michney, T. M. (2017). Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900–1980. UNC Press Books.

Miggins, E. M. (2014). “No Crystal Stair” The Cleveland Public Schools and the Struggle for Equality, 1900–1930. Journal of Urban History, 40(4), 671-698.

Olson, D. (2017). Boys in Black and the Urban Ghetto Child. In Black Children in Hollywood Cinema (pp. 121-158). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Onwuachi-Willig, A. (2016). Extending the Normativity of the Extended Family: Reflections on Moore v. The city of East Cleveland. Fordham L. Rev., 85, 2655.

Wood, J. S. (2017). Between the World and Me; Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea; Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics; and The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir. The AAG Review of Books, 5(2), 126-137.

November 24, 2023

Business Life Sociology



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City Community

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