HARGRAVE, MASON ALEXANDER (20 Mar.1923-12 Dec. 1988) was an African-American community activist best known for his work with the UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION.

Hargrave was born in Virginia, the son of Rev. James W. and Sadie E. (Johnson) Hargrave, and raised in Buffalo, NY. He came to Cleveland in 1947, working first as a railroad waiter and then at a variety of jobs. From 1969 to 1981 he worked for HOPE Inc., an organization that developed new housing in Hough.

Hargrave joined the UNIA in 1969, at a time when membership in the organization was declining significantly. He served as the president of the Cleveland chapter, and eventually became the organization's national president. He also promoted the acceptance of the red, black, and green black nationalist flag, and was instrumental in having it flown for the first time over Cleveland City Hall in 1974. Hargrave worked for better community relations and served on the boards of several community organizations.

In the 1980s, Hargrave led efforts to restore the UNIA Building (formerly the JACOB GOLDSMITH HOUSE). He planned to convert it into a headquarters for the UNIA as well as a museum and cultural and neighborhood center. In November, 1988, the house suffered a devasting fire. The following month Hargrave died, and in January, 1989, the house was demolished. After Hargrave's death, the Cleveland chapter of the UNIA went dormant.

Hargrave and his wife Mary Jane (d. 1970), had one child, a son Mason A. Hagrave, Jr. Hargrave Sr. died in Cleveland and is buried in RIVERSIDE CEMETERY.

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding Aid for the Universal Negro Improvement Association Records, WRHS.

Finding Aid for the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, August 1929 of the World Records, WRHS

Cleveland Public Library Logo


View image at Cleveland Public Library.

Article Categories