Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future of Cleveland

50th anniversary of Carl Stokes’ historic election as mayor to be commemorated in 2017

Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future of Cleveland

CLEVELAND — November 18, 2016 - The 50th anniversary of Carl Stokes’ election as mayor of Cleveland will be commemorated in 2017 with a yearlong series of events designed to inspire a new generation of community leaders.

The initiative will honor Mayor Stokes and his brother, Congressman Louis Stokes, and build on their legacy of leadership, advocacy and action. It seeks to use history as a guide for continued social and economic development in Greater Cleveland.

The commemoration is being led by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®), the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Foundation, Greater Cleveland Partnership and The City Club of Cleveland.

In total, Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future includes more than 60 community partners.

“The accomplishments of Mayor Stokes and Congressman Stokes advanced Cleveland and the nation, and their influence continues to resonate,” Tri-C President Alex Johnson said. “Their vision serves as a guide for a vibrant and prosperous future in our city.”

The commemoration will address a wide spectrum of issues through various activities, including music and theater performances, museum exhibits, academic conferences and an oral history project. A calendar of events will be released in January.

Goals of the Stokes initiative include:

  • Celebrating the historical accomplishments of Carl and Louis Stokes while reflecting on their impact on political access and civil rights.
  • Considering current challenges related to social justice and equality and identifying strategies to resolve them through purposeful research, productive discussion and strategic planning.
  • Inspiring a new generation to continue the Stokes legacy and create a roadmap for civic engagement.
  • Creating lasting tributes as a reminder of the past and our commitment to a better future.

Carl Stokes overturned racial barriers in 1967 while becoming the first African-American to be elected mayor of a major American city. He served two terms while advancing an agenda that still serves as a foundation for Cleveland.

His brother, Louis Stokes, turned to politics after making a profound impact on the civil rights movement as a lawyer. He won election as Ohio’s first African-American congressman in 1968 and served 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Together, Carl and Louis Stokes made history while setting the framework for the long-term viability of Cleveland.

Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future is supported by gifts from many individuals and organizations. More than 20 highly prominent community, government and business leaders chair the initiative.

The commemoration was officially announced today during a City Club event examining how Mayor Stokes’ response to the Cuyahoga River fire in 1969 helped to launch an environmental movement.

For more information on the yearlong commemoration, visit

Media inquiries should be addressed to:, 216-987-4281