Filed Under Conflict

Haggins Realty Bombing

Shiny windows, clean floors and new furniture. All are part of a new office and a new opportunity. This is what African American entrepreneur Isaac Haggins imagined for his realty business. Haggins, whose new office in Cleveland Heights in 1968 became the first black-owned realty office in any Cleveland suburb, sold homes in the Cleveland area to both African Americans and whites at a time when Realtors refused to do so. By 1960 and through the 1970s, Cleveland Heights endured a tumultuous housing and real estate environment. African Americans were moving into suburbs where the population was overwhelmingly white. This movement unreasonably scared some whites into committing criminal acts against them.

Haggins began his real estate business in 1961 in order to fulfill his dream of selling good homes to any person no matter what race. He had two offices located at 10215 St. Clair Avenue and 12534 Union Avenue on Cleveland's east side. After having many successful years in both locations, Haggins opened his third office in December 1968 in Cleveland Heights at 2221 North Taylor Road. The office space was sold to him by an Italian man who warned that he could not guarantee his safety. While violence was not an everyday occurrence in Cleveland Heights, it was a possibility. Haggins did not think much about the warning and opened the office with much fanfare. He hosted an open house in December 1968 to celebrate the opening of the office. The party was attended by many city officials, local citizens and community leaders.

Unfortunately, the celebration was short lived. In February 1969, Haggins office in Cleveland Heights was bombed as an act of racial violence. The bomb damaged the interior of the office and cost $10,000-$12,000 to repair. A positive message that resulted from the disaster was that the community banded together. Haggins received many sympathy calls and letters stating support for him and his company and hope for justice. The Cleveland Real Estate Brokers Association even posted a $500 reward for any information that could produce a suspect. The bombing served as another wake-up call to politicians and citizens that a real problem was on their doorstep.

The culprits were never captured but Haggins Realty bounced back. Only four months later, Haggins hired seven new staffers out of the 165 who applied. According to the Call & Post, the new employees were attracted to Haggins Realty due to the amount of sympathy around the entire city after the Taylor Road office bombing. However, the rest of Haggins's career was not always full of praise and support. He was accused of using blockbusting techniques in his realty practice, a charge he steadfastly denied. Despite the devastation of the bombing and through the outpouring of support and the accusations of blockbusting, the Haggins Realty firm continued to be successful. By October 1971, Haggins Realty reached over $1 million in sales just for that month alone. Haggins Realty continued its success for many more years to come.

Audio

Inspired by Stokes and MLK Jr. Isaac Haggins cites a meeting with Carl B. Stokes and Martin Luther King Jr. that inspired him to assist all people in finding homes regardless of their race. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Forest Hill Restrictions Isaac Haggins surmises that, given the unwritten racial restrictions in the Forest Hill subdivision near his realty office, residents may have feared that he would open up their neighborhood. He also recalls a Forest Hill man who tried to list his home with Haggins Realty, only to face such retribution that he reconsidered. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
The Furniture Was All Sliced Up Isaac Haggins tells the story of how he discovered his realty office had been bombed after leaving the hospital where his son was recovering from an operation and how he might have been killed if he had not been with his son. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Open Listings After the Bombing After his new realty office was bombed, Haggins received an outpouring of support from the community, including many listings from whites who wanted to sell on the open market to show their support for fair housing. "I got some tremendous support from everybody, and I got a lot of listing of people and that's... In other words, I wouldn't have gotten these listings. I got them because they would have gone to people in the neighborhood. And it was right after the bombing. So I just went to work and start servicing the people. And they told me the reason. They went and said, Look, well, I'm fair-minded. And I think what happened to you should not have happened. And we want to go ahead and see if we can... In their own way, they were saying they could rectify it by, if they have a property they want to sell. So, I was the broker." Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Haggins Realty After Bombing, 1969 Haggins outside of his destroyed real estate office on North Taylor Road. It was bombed as an act of racial violence. Here Haggins receives an outpouring of community support, which emboldened him to continue his business of assisting people in buying homes regardless of their race. Source: Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project.
Isaac Haggins Sr. Isaac Haggins overcame obstacles to become the first black real estate broker with an office in a Cleveland suburb, which he accomplished in 1968. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project
Forest Hill, 1961 Built on land deeded by John D. Rockefeller Jr., the Forest Hill subdivision straddled the border between East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights. Into the 1960s its homeowners' association employed clandestine methods to thwart African Americans from moving there. When Isaac Haggins opened his real estate office across North Taylor Road from the subdivision, he found that blacks were still unwelcome there and chose to turn his attention to neighborhoods with less resistance. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project
Bombed House, 1967 In 1967, two years before Haggins Realty was bombed, the East Overlook Road home of J. Newton Hill, director of Karamu House, was bombed. It was one of several racially motivated residential bombing incidents that rocked Cleveland Heights in the turbulent 1960s. Image courtesy of Cleveland Heights Historical Society
Isaac Haggins Realty Advertisement This ad appeared several months after the Haggins Realty bombing. Source: Shaw High School football program, 1969, courtesy of Don D. (@MayorMcDif on Twitter) Date: 1969

Location

2221 N Taylor Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44112

Metadata

Ruth Zeager, “Haggins Realty Bombing,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 10, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/640.