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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND ASSOCIATION OF COLORED MEN

CLEVELAND ASSOCIATION OF COLORED MEN

The CLEVELAND ASSOCIATION OF COLORED MEN was organized in June 1908 by black business and professional men to improve economic and social conditions for their race. It grew out of a smaller, more elite organization called the Cleveland Board of Trade (est. 1905), an affiliate of Booker T. Washington's National Negro Business League. The expanded organization attempted to broaden membership to include men of good standing who stood willing and ready "to advance the varied interests of the colored people of Cleveland." The Cleveland Assn. of Colored Men brought community leaders together for lectures, social events, charitable projects, and, most importantly, weekly public meetings for discussion of issues of interest to local blacks (see AFRICAN AMERICANS). As was typical before World War I, the club concentrated on "investigation" of discriminatory practices and met with officials to air complaints. The organization utilized negotiation and conciliation and stressed self-reliance, believing that demonstrations of upward mobility would eventually result in the acceptance of blacks. A favorite event sponsored by the group was an annual Emancipation Celebration picnic at LUNA PARK, a "whites only" facility that accommodated black patrons only on select occasions. The choice of this site was severely criticized by more militant African Americans. The day always included a speaker of national prominence, such as Judge Robert Terrell, Washington, DC's, first black judge. Assn. officers in 1908 included THOMAS W. FLEMING, president; Jacob Reed, vice-president; Robert Cheeks, John Redd, Dr. E. A. Dale, ALEXANDER MARTIN, SR., and GARRETT MORGAN.