New City Club book reminds us of its history as leading forum for dialogue on race

The Club has done much in recent years to address what outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder referred to as America’s cowardice when it comes to discussing race. Just this summer, Ta-Nehisi Coates addressed the Club and its national audience on the subject of reparations.

The just-published book, A Century of Free Speech at the City Club of Cleveland, contains a remarkable chunk of Cleveland black history. The unique club, with its unbroken tradition as the nation’s longest continuously running public forum, has given an important pulpit to a number of African Americans as long ago as 1922, when W. E. B. DuBois addressed the forum. The roster of other distinguished black Americans who have spoken at the City Club includes Rosa Parks, Julian Bond, John Lewis, Andrew Young, Bayard Rustin, Leon Higginbotham, US Surgeons General Dr. Jocelyn Elders and Dr. David Satcher, Cleveland’s own Antwone Fisher, and former Clinton White House top Africa policy advisor Susan Rice, who cited Botswana as the world’s fastest-growing economy.

The gifted African American artist Elmer Brown created the large mural that spans the south wall of the Club’s main dining room in 1942. The Club’s new CEO Dan Moulthrop may be among the first to wonder whether the single black face in the picture was the artist himself.

On December 12, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr. and the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell will share the podium in a frank conversation about race and racism in America. All forums are open to the public, but reservations are required. Call 216.621.0082 or visit

The attractive book, written by historian and author Carol Poh, is available in selected area bookstores, at the City Club, and from Amazon.


Reprinted with permission from The Real Deal Press, Vol. 1, #9, December 2014. 

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