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mission statement

The exhibit has seven thematic sections, each constructed about a period in the Stokes’ brothers’ lives.
(click on the sections to see description and photos)


Two brothers from Cleveland, Ohio, helped reshape American history.  Carl Stokes became the first African-American mayor of a major American city.  His brother Louis was the first African-American US Congressman from Ohio, serving for fifteen consecutive terms.  Together they along with others created pathways, policies and programs that advanced civil rights, promoted urban issues, and helped to make the United States a more equitable nation.

Their life story, which is the focus of this exhibition, is one of ordinary people struggling to achieve extraordinary things in a city, nation and world that held many barriers for people who were poor and black.   As youths they drew inspiration from individuals who struggled against the odds.   They especially looked to their mother, Louise Stokes, who urged them to study and work hard to “become somebody.” As adults their achievements have become the inspiration for new generations.

While the exhibit justifiably celebrates the achievements of Carl and Louis Stokes, it uses their experiences to reflect and explore topics such as The Civil Rights Movement, the roles and importance of heroes and exemplars, and the 20th century African-American experience through everyday life and culture.

Exhibit co-curators: Susan Hall, Assoc. Curator of African American History and Edward Pershey, Director of Museum Services

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