Joan Southgate At City Club, Wed. June 10th - Learn Cleveland's Emancipation Efforts

Submitted by Kevin Cronin on Mon, 06/08/2009 - 17:06.

Joan Southgate is a diminutive 80 year-old, but her commitment and energy inspired a community to action and made a major city institution take a second look and agree to preserve, rather than destroy, a part of Cleveland's rich history.   She'll tell the story of her walk in her ancestor's path and how she was inspired to preserve the Cozad-Bates House, the oldest pre-civil war structure in University Circle, with its stories of emancipation and the freedom trail.

Ohio's role in the "Underground Railway" is an poorly told story. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 still permitted southern slaveholders to apprehend escaping slaves in northern states and Ohio was a dangerous place. Ohio was the shortest route to Canada, from Kentucky and Virginia, and hosts more than 3,000 trail miles of the underground railway, more than any other state. The National Park Service has identified ten Ohio Underground Railroad sites in its National Register of Historic Places, more than any other state, with as many as eight Lake Erie coastal cities, from Painesville to Lorain, playing a role in emancipation. Cleveland was known by the code name "Hope."

The impressive brick Cozad-Bates Home, located on Mayfield Road, south of Euclid Avenue, was reportedly a key stop along the emancipation route to Canada for escaping slaves seeking freedom, yet was slated for destruction by University Hospital for another parking garage. The home has been on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1974. Joan's energy and activism helped a community turn UH's decision around.

Joan will be speaking on Wednesday, June 10th at noon. The City Club is located downtown, at 850 Euclid Avenue on the 2nd Floor. Call to make your reservation, 216-621-0082 for this special program, with a cost of $15 for city Club members and $25 otherwise.

Joan's energy and commitment are not new. In 2002, Joan walked from Southern Ohio, retracing the steps of countless slaves who escaped bondage through Ohio to freedom. She began her trip in southern Ripley, Ohio and completed the walk in University Circle. In May, she continued the walk, retracing the steps from St. Catherine's, Ontario back to University Circle. Along the way, she visited other historic steps and met with countless people. A retired grandmother, Southgate embarked on her challenge because she wanted to set an example for her grandchildren and others. Joan's story, "In Their Path," was captured in her online journal about the experience.

Want More Information About Ohio? Several nationally known individuals associated with antislavery activity and the Underground Railroad were active in Ohio. Levi Coffin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Mercer Langston and John Brown (remember John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry from history class?) were all Ohio residents. Sojourner Truth gave her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech in Akron. Sarah Margru Kinson, youngest captive on the notorious slave ship Amistad, was educated in Oberlin. Come to the City Club and learn about Joan's story and help her restore Cleveland Hope.


Walk FR Joan (4 09).jpg125.08 KB

Dignity and HOPE


At one time, Cleveland could boast citizens who worked to overturn injustice and to make progressive change.  Our heritage should be our rally cry.  Joan Southgate is trying to restore Cleveland as HOPE.  Won't you support her?