Cleveland Restoration Society unveils first Civil Rights Trail marker at Cory Church

On Friday, Dec. 10, the Cleveland Restoration Society hosted its annual community luncheon at Cory United Methodist Church—a significant historical and cultural landmark in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood.

Earlier this year the CRS received a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund for exterior restoration of the church,  which continues to be the center of a faith community, for social transformation, and rebirthing of the Glenville neighborhood.

Attendees were encouraged to arrive early at the event to attend the dedication ceremony for the first marker on Cleveland’s African American Civil Rights Trail. The historical marker was unveiled in front of Cory Church by Ohio History Connection executive director Burt Logan, with assistance from Margaret Lann, CRS’ director of preservation services and publications. Cory was chosen for one of the 10 markers for its role in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Dedication ceremony
Cory pastor Gregory Kendrick made the opening remarks for the dedication when he described the Glenville church as “A place of justice, a place of hope, and a place of love.” Kendrick then shared greetings to the audience from United Methodist Church Ohio East bishop Tracy Smith Malone.

Natoya Walker Minor, chair of Cleveland’s African American Civil Rights Trail, spoke about the Cleveland’s role in the civil rights movement, and the first marker on the Civil Rights Trail.

“The significance of this is to bring awareness to our young people so that the average man and woman—my neighbor and yours—when they walk down this street can remember and never forget,” she told the group.

At the ceremony, Prester Pickett, coordinator of the Howard A. Mims African American Cultural Center at Cleveland State University, performed selections from the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King. Cleveland poet Kel Shabazz recited selections from the Malcom X’s famous “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, which he gave at Cory on April 3, 1964.

Cleveland ward 9 city councilperson Kevin Conwell reminded the audience of the significant role that Cory has had in Glenville.

“On behalf of the 27,500 residents of the Glenville community, we are very happy that this marker is here, and it means a lot to us,” said Conwell at the unveiling.

Minor closed the dedication. “At the end of the day, this is for all of us,” she told the audience. “Social justice, opening the doors, the legacy of the civil rights movement has impacted all of our lives—not just black lives, all of our lives have benefitted from social justice.”

Keynote speaker Brent Legg presents at the Cleveland Restoration Society community luncheon.Cleveland Restoration Society Community Luncheon
After the dedication ceremony, Cleveland Restoration Society luncheon attendees made their way through the church sanctuary and upstairs to the ballroom. CRS board of trustees chair Scott Holbrook welcomed the attendees and CRS president Kathleen Crowther provided opening remarks, thanking Cory UMC for making it possible to have the annual luncheon in their beautiful ballroom.

"We're so excited to have this substantial grant from the National Park Service to address the concerns on the exterior of Cory." she told the audience. Crowther thanked the groups involved in the project and gave updates on the organization’s current restoration projects including the Dall-Mays houses in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood.

CRS honorary life trustee Jan Devereaux nominated Tom Einhouse, Playhouse Square’s  vice president of facilities and capital, to be  a fellow honorary life trustee for his work in the restoration of five historic theatres in Playhouse Square.

The restoration project, which started in 1980, was led by Einhouse and is the world's largest theater restoration project.

The annual luncheon’s keynote speaker was Brent Leggs—the senior vice president and executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and author of "Preserving African American Historic Places," which has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution.

Front side of the newly unveiled Ohio Historical Marker in front of Cory United Methodist Church.Leggs developed the Northeast African American Historic Places Outreach Program to build a regional movement of preservation leaders saving important landmarks in African American history. He also led the efforts to create the Birmingham Civil Rights Monument in Alabama.

Leggs’ program focused on the history of cultural inequity in preservation. “We still continue to see a lack of diversity and representation in the inventory of the National Register of Historic Places,” he said. “Only 2% of the nearly 100,000 registered entries directly reflects the Black experience”.

In his final thoughts, Leggs stressed the idea that for historic preservation to be relevant to all communities, we must begin to see black history as American history. “We’ve got to have reverence and respect for the full contributions of the black Americans of our nation,” Leggs told the audience. “Done right, historic preservations can foster truth, equity, and validation of all Americans. The past and the present merge to meet us here.”

Read more articles by Kelly Quinn Sands.

Kelly Quinn Sands is a freelance writer, digital content professional, lifelong Cleveland resident, and Cleveland State University alumna. When she’s not busy behind her keyboard, you will often find her behind her guitar writing songs or outside tending to her garden.