A large part of Theodore M. Berry’s work in obtaining equality for African Americans in Ohio and especially in Cincinnati centered on the electoral process. The “Berry Backers” frequently ran “Get out the Vote” type events throughout the 1940s and 1950s, using the lure of bowling tournaments and visiting speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to encourage blacks to work with the systems in place and become involved in the political process. It should then come as no surprise that Berry spent many years fighting for what he believed to be the fairest system of voting – proportional representation.
I recently came across a transcription of a deposition which Theodore M. Berry gave after being subpoenaed for the school desegregation case Bronson v. Board of Education of Cincinnati. During that deposition and much to Berry’s annoyance at what he called the “terrific waste” of everyone’s time and money, lawyers from all sides of the case had Berry go into great detail about many aspects of his life. He told of his time at the Stowe School, he told of his work as a young lawyer and he told of the Tuskegee Airman case.
“There were occasions in the early days during the period of Thurgood Marshall, when he was the special counsel, this goes back before the war, when I have been consulted, but never was a counsel of record in any case, except a very celebrated court-martial, in which I served as chief counsel in representation of a group of Negro officers who were being court-martialed because they protested against the segregated officers’ quarters. I was chief counsel, Lieutenant William T. Coleman, who more recently was Secretary of Transportation, was military counsel associated with me, and one of the defendants who were acquitted became one of the first black Air Force generals, General Chappie Jones (James), he was one of the officers. He later acknowledged had he not been acquitted at that court-martial, he might not have become a general.” Continue reading T. M. Berry Project: An Update on the Tuskegee Airmen Court Martial of 1945
In the Archives and Rare Books Library, we help students, faculty, and even outside researchers with their projects, so it is always exciting when we are able to reap the benefits of great student projects of the past. One such project is a collection of oral histories organized by Eleanor Smith, a professor in the Afro-American Studies Department (now the Department of Africana Studies) at UC. Smith was inspired to direct this project after encountering a lack of information on black Cincinnatians in the area’s libraries and archives. She designed an oral history class to change that and in 1975 and 1976, Smith’s students conducted interviews with 23 African-Americans in Cincinnati from a variety of backgrounds. The oral histories that resulted from this project provide a unique view of African American life in Cincinnati in the early and mid-20th century and shed light on the experiences of African Americans in a city where segregation may not have always been in writing, but was certainly the norm. Those who were interviewed saw the importance of passing on their stories to the next generation. Although equal rights were still being sought in the mid-1970s and are still a struggle today, leaps and bounds were made in the lifetimes of many of these men and women and their stories taught the student interviewers important lessons.
Did you know that the Archives and Rare Books Library holds thousands of linear feet of archival material? ARB has material relating to Urban Studies, German-Americana, University Archives and local government records including things like UC Board of Trustees minutes, wills for Hamilton County, Ohio, photographs of Cincinnati’s never completed subway, theater programs, labor newspapers, sheet music and much, much more. We are constantly in the process of organizing these materials and creating finding aids to help you locate them. We’ve recently updated the finding aids lists on our website to show you even more of what we have. We’ve also added links to our finding aids available through the OhioLINK Finding Aid Repository. Take a look and see if there is anything that interests you. For more information, call the Archives and Rare Books Library at 513-556-1959 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All these delays caused one huge problem: members who had been in need of homes back in 1947 found housing before homes could be built for them at Hollydale in the mid to late 1950s. The result was an enormous expense for the Cedar Grove Homestead Association, which had to refund many of its original members’ investments. Gail Berry remembers her father going to Cedar Grove meetings and to the building site at Hollydale in Springfield Township many times during her childhood. Fortunately, as Berry points out in the article to the right, this type of persistence paid off and the association managed to build a safe and stable community for Cincinnati’s black residents.
Approximately 200 homes were built in the subdivision in the middle part of the 20th century. Thanks to the efficiency of the building techniques used, the homes in Hollydale were relatively affordable. However, the people who ended up settling there were the same people who could afford to wait for houses to be built to his/her specifications and who generally had steady if not large incomes. At first glance then, it would seem that Hollydale would have had little effect on the massive overpopulation problems in Cincinnati’s low income black neighborhoods. However, this is one instance (of only a few) where “trickle down” economics seems to apply beautifully. People moving to Hollydale cleared up at least a little space in the basin of the city which, when combined with additional new housing projects like Park Town, Garden Hill and Richmond Village for which Berry acted as counsel and others like Laurel Homes and Lincoln Court eventually created enough housing to relieve much of the congestion plaguing poor black neighborhoods. Continue reading T. M. Berry Project: Berry and the Fight for Fair Housing in Cincinnati, Part 3
The Archives & Rare Books Library has digitized some historical Cincinnati maps dating from 1802 – 1929 and has made them available for research on our website. The maps are all located in materials from our Rare Books Collection and are scanned at a high resolution to provide detail for researchers.
The maps provide both geographical and social information about the City of Cincinnati through the years. Several of the maps included keys or labels indicating buildings and landmarks and can show trends in public services and the development of particular communities. Continue reading Historical Cincinnati Maps
On May 28, 1948, less than a year after its initial formation, Cedar Grove Homestead Association had the funds available to authorize Berry to begin negotiations to purchase a 93 acre tract of land. The final price for the land: $17,500. Unfortunately, getting the owner to sell to an association made up entirely of African Americans wasn’t so easy…
In 1967, the City of Cincinnati purchased an old showboat named the Majestic and docked it at Cincinnati’s Public Landing. The city was in the process of attempting to revive its riverfront and thought the boat, which spoke to an earlier era of river travel, might be a perfect addition. To keep the tradition of the showboat alive, the city leased this boat to the University of Cincinnati, and in the summer of 1968, UC theater students began performing on the Majestic. Continue reading Theater on the River: The Showboat Majestic Records
Whether you love to dance or just wish you could, you’ll certainly enjoy viewing the photographs, drawings and posters in the Cincinnati Ballet records. This recent donation to the Archives and Rare Books Library spans almost the entire history of the Cincinnati Ballet from the early 1960s until 2009. These records provide a look into the formation of this acclaimed Cincinnati institution and even its connections with UC. Continue reading Wish you could Dance? Check out the Cincinnati Ballet Records in ARB
Throughout processing the collection there have been a few things which I’ve really wanted to find. This photo is one of them. On the left is Lt. Roger Terry, one of three Tuskegee Airmen whom Theodore M. Berry defended during court-martial hearings for entering an illegally segregated officers’ club at Freeman Field in Indiana.