OAKWOOD, one of the smaller communities in Cuyahoga County, was originally part of Bedford Twp. and incorporated as a village in 1951. Occupying 3.45 sq. mi., it is 14 miles southeast of Cleveland, bounded on the north by BEDFORD and BEDFORD HTS., on the south by Macedonia (Summit County), on the east by GLENWILLOW and SOLON, and on the west by WALTON HILLS. During the Great Migration, one of the few outlying AFRICAN AMERICAN communities in the Cleveland area formed in Oakwood. The Lincoln Heights Land Co. advertised low-cost homesites for blacks in Oakwood in the 1920s, touting freedom from rent and the opportunity to raise chickens and engage in small-scale truck farming. In 1922, New Bethel A.M.E. Church, the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Cleveland suburbs, was organized in 1922 by Rev. Gainey Washington and several black families who initially met in a barn. In 1947 New Bethel built a concrete block building on Lincolnville Ave., which it still (2019) occupies. Oakwood became the county’s 58th municipality when residents from the southeastern portion of Bedford Twp. voted to create the village after a 13-year struggle. The creation of Bedford Hts. and Walton Hills that same year brought an end to Bedford Twp., formed in 1823.

Soon after incorporation, the village adopted zoning regulations that created hardships for some black homeowners, one of whom also faced threats of violence by a group of whites. Financial problems threatened to halt the village’s development. The Oakwood Village Boosters’ Club was formed and raised funds through the sale of promissory notes and other projects, enabling the purchase of property to house municipal offices. In 1955 a service building was constructed, and in 1960 a police department was organized. In 1972, Oakwood passed an ordinance to permit PUBLIC HOUSING, making it one of only three Cleveland suburbs to do so. Some residents unsuccessfully petitioned to have Oakwood annexed to Solon in an effort to thwart plans for public housing. However, only in 1986 did the CMHA finally open 25 single-family homes in Oakwood. Since its incorporation the village has operated under the mayor-council form of government. The schools of Oakwood Village are affiliated with the Bedford School District. The village is crossed by Broadway Ave., I-271/480, the WHEELING & LAKE ERIE RAILROAD, and the NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILROAD. Oakwood is home to a number of mostly small industries, including firms producing medical imaging equipment and airport security products. Oakwood’s population grew slowly, from 3,283 in 1960 to a peak of 3,786 in 1980. Its estimated 2017 population of 3,672 is virtually unchanged from the 2000 and 2010 censuses. In 2010, African Americans accounted for 65% of Oakwood’s population.

Updated by Mark Souther

Last updated: 6/26/2019

Wiese, Andrew. Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

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