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Local Matters

Ballots and Bullets: Cleveland's Role in the Civil Rights Movement

Friday, July 20, 2018
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

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"We can start changing our perspectives on race, and that it's a myth that separates us for no good reason." – James Robenalt

Cleveland played a critical role in the civil rights movement, intersecting with some of the most important African American figures of the time. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. raised money for bail during his Birmingham campaign in the spring of 1963 in Cleveland. A year later, Malcolm X spoke from the same pulpit to explain his break with the Nation of Islam. His Ballots or Bullets speech, first delivered in Cleveland, became one of the most influential speeches of the 20th century. And, after Dr. King's assassination, Senator Robert F. Kennedy delivered the Mindless Menace of Violence speech at the City Club on April 5, 1968.

Three months later, on the night of July 23, 1968, Cleveland police battled with black nationalists in the Glenville neighborhood. A shootout left 10 dead and more than 15 wounded, mostly police. Days of heavy rioting followed, inciting what would become a decades-long struggle between race and the police. Fifty years later, have things materially changed in America’s race relations?

Join us as historian and author James Robenalt discusses his new book, Ballots and Bullets: Black Power Politics and Urban Guerrilla Warfare in 1968 Cleveland, and explores the role Cleveland played during the civil rights and black power struggles.

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