HOUGH RIOTS

The HOUGH RIOTS, 18-24 July 1966, were a spontaneous outbreak of civil disorder which encompassed a spectrum ranging from angry protest to vandalism, looting, and arson. A number of observers believed that the HOUGH neighborhood was primed for such an outbreak, after its rapid demographic transition during the 1950s to become overwhelmingly Black (see AFRICAN AMERICANS) with substandard and overcrowded housing, overcharging for necessities by area merchants, and incidents of police harassment.  While there had been several disturbances earlier in the summer, these events proved to be more serious and widespread. The riots were sparked when the white bar owner of the Seventy-Niners Cafe at Hough Ave. and E. 79th St. denied a Black takeout customer a glass of water on the evening of 18 July.  Police were increasingly unable to deal with the growing angry crowd, as rock throwing escalated into vandalism and looting which spread throughout the surrounding neighborhood. The following evening the disorder continued, with fires set in the area as well as reports of sniper fire.

At the request of Mayor RALPH LOCHER, the Natl. Guard moved into Hough on the morning of 20 July to restore order, and the mayor closed all bars and taverns. After a major fire at Cedar and E. 106th on the 21st, things slowly returned to normal. On Monday, 25 July, those stores in the Hough area that had escaped serious damage reopened, and the Natl. Guard was gradually released from duty. During the riots, four people were killed, all of them African American.  Two were innocent bystanders apparently caught in the crossfire, and the other two were killed outside of the neighborhood, one allegedly by a white assailant while waiting for the bus, and the other by a resident of LITTLE ITALY in an incident that was later ruled self-defense.  About 30 were injured, including a family of four shot when their car failed to stop at a police barricade; close to 300 were arrested, and approx. 240 fires were set, resulting in an estimated $1-2 million in property damage.

A grand jury investigation found no evidence that the riots had been planned or controlled by radical groups in Cleveland, as had been initially alleged. The local Urban League and Congress of Racial Equality chapters criticized the grand jury investigation and police heavy-handedness in suppressing the disorders, while neighborhood residents formed a Citizens Committee on Hough Disturbances to tell their side of the story.  The events in Hough were part of a national pattern of racial tension and frustration which produced similar urban uprisings around the country from 1965 to 1968, a pattern that would reoccur in Cleveland two years later in connection with the GLENVILLE SHOOTOUT.

Updated by Todd Michney


Cleveland Citizens Committee on Hough Disturbances (1966).

Cuyahoga County Grand Jury Special Report Relating to the Hough Riots (1966).

Lackritz, Marc E. "The Hough Riots of 1966" (B.A. thesis, Princeton Univ., 1968).

Michney, Todd M.  "Race, Violence, and Urban Territoriality: Cleveland’s Little Italy and the 1966 Hough Uprising" (Journal of Urban History, 2008).

Urban League of Cleveland, "Report of the Panel Hearings on the Superior and Hough Disturbances" (1966).

Urban League of Cleveland Report on the Hough Riots.


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