Ludlow Community Association

An Experiment in Controlled Integration

In 1956, an explosion disturbed the usually quiet suburban neighborhood of Ludlow. Someone had planted a bomb in the garage of John G. Pegg, an African American lawyer who was building a new house on Corby Road. The racial attack sparked a biracial movement in this pastoral corner of Cleveland and was one of the first incidents that brought the neighborhood together to support integration.

Ludlow straddles the border between Cleveland and Shaker Heights, bounded by Van Aken Boulevard, Milverton and Livingston roads, South Moreland Boulevard, and South Woodland Road. This area of curvilinear streets corresponds with the Ludlow Elementary School district in the Shaker Heights City School District. In the 1950s and 1960s, Shaker Heights was among the nation's most affluent suburbs and was known for its quality of education. As a result of this prestige, more families wanted to move into the school district. Adjacent to the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, which already had a large black population, Ludlow's location invited the attention of aspiring African American homeowners who hoped to obtain better housing. As in many suburban neighborhoods in the United States at the time, the arrival of the first black families unsettled many white homeowners. Realtors stopped showing houses in Ludlow to whites and warned those who still lived there that their property values would decrease as more African Americans moved in. Accordingly, many whites began scrambling to leave the neighborhood.

What makes Ludlow's story different is that a determined contingent of its people decided to take an active stance against this "white flight." They founded Ludlow Community Association (LCA) in 1957, a reflection of a newfound communal goal to purposefully and proactively integrate the neighborhood. The founders knew this would not happen without a fight, as Shaker Heights's housing and deed restrictions, which dated back to the time of the Van Sweringen brothers, had been built around policies of exclusivity--and exclusion. In order to integrate Ludlow and effectively work around these restrictions, LCA focused its efforts on real estate. However, LCA did not attack the issues of integration in a conventional way, and began to host multiple open houses to white families only. Ludlow had a steady flow of black house buyers, but lacked white interest in real estate, so LCA contended it was necessary to get white families to move back into Ludlow to counteract white flight. LCA soon aggressively fought with realtors to help dictate who would buy the houses with recent "For Sale" signs. This approach to integration was very controversial, inviting protest from the NAACP--but it succeeded in engineering an integrated neighborhood for at least a generation.

The Ludlow Community Association hosted an array of fundraisers and events to support its real estate campaigns. Many were hosted at Ludlow Elementary, but others were held at bigger venues. One of the most significant fundraisers included the jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald performing at Severance Hall, and many movie events at Colony Theater in Shaker Heights. All of these activities were highly organized and reflected LCA's integration efforts: an orderly and stable community, even in the "turbulent '60s." Ludlow became such a diverse and peaceful neighborhood that soon cities from all over the country were calling for advice about integrating their own communities. Not only did Ludlow set a national example for integration, the Moreland and Lomond neighborhoods in Shaker Heights soon followed suit. However, neither was as successful as Ludlow. Although the Ludlow neighborhood is now home to an approximately 85 percent black population, the efforts of the Ludlow Community Association assured that the neighborhood never suffered the wrenching shifts that brought panic and disinvestment in so many other communities.

Images

Ludlow Neighborhood Map

Ludlow Neighborhood Map

This map shows the Ludlow Elementary School district, which was a part of the Shaker Heights public school system until the school closed in the 1980s. Like many neighborhoods, the community was named after the nearest school. Lying halfway in Cleveland, and halfway in Shaker Heights, it was the first neighborhood in the area to actively integrate. Today Ludlow children attend Boulevard Elementary School, which is located across Van Aken Boulevard. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Library. View File Details Page

A Meeting on Integration

A Meeting on Integration

After various meetings and community activities, the Ludlow Community Association (LCA) met officially in 1957. As depicted in the photo, all of the LCA meetings were taken very seriously and real estate became the main means of keeping the neighborhood integrated. In addition to regular meetings, LCA also sent out many community reports, which kept the residents well informed and active. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Library. View File Details Page

Keeping the Peace

Keeping the Peace

Unlike many neighborhoods at the time, Ludlow was an example of organization in an era of chaos. Due to the efforts of the Ludlow Community Association, the area remained peacefully integrated, active, and involved. By keeping Ludlow orderly, the LCA achieved desegregation, which was thought impossible in many regions in the United States. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Library. View File Details Page

Growing Up with Diversity

Growing Up with Diversity

For many children growing up in Ludlow, integration was something that was natural and "no big deal," as Shelley Stokes-Hammond put it. As Ludlow Elementary became naturally diverse, with the community remaining integrated, children learned to be understanding and appreciative of their diverse neighbors. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Library. View File Details Page

Ludlow School, 1962

Ludlow School, 1962

This photograph depicts the diverse students that attended and lived in Ludlow School District. Here we see four school children receiving the American flag as part of a patriotic program at the school. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Unversity. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

LCA Hosts Ella Fitzgerald

LCA Hosts Ella Fitzgerald

In 1966, the Ludlow Community Association (LCA) hosted Ella Fitzgerald at Severance Hall in Cleveland. As part of a fundraiser to support their real estate efforts, the event sold out with 500 guests attending the concert. Ella Fitzgerald performed with the Jimmy Jones Trio, and it received rave reviews from newspapers across Greater Cleveland. Seen above are an original flyer for the event and a picture of the jazz singer taken at Severance Hall. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Library. View File Details Page

My Fair Ludlow

My Fair Ludlow

One of the many fundraisers hosted by the Ludlow Community Association (LCA), the motion picture "My Fair Lady" was shown at Colony Theater in 1964. Like many others, the profits from the event were used to help fuel LCA's real estate actions. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Library. View File Details Page

Audio

The Van Sweringen Effect

Shelley Stokes-Hammond describes the Van Sweringen effect on Shaker Heights, which included plans to keep the city segregated. View File Details Page

White Flight

Fran King, one of the founders of the Ludlow Community Association, tells her personal experience with white flight in Ludlow. View File Details Page

The Beginning of LCA

Emilie Barnett, one of the pioneers of the Ludlow Community Association, describes how the movement began with just a few simple neighborhood dinners. View File Details Page

A Community Fundraiser

Shelley Stokes-Hammond, who grew up in Ludlow in the 1960s, talks about one of the fundraisers LCA sponsored at the Colony Theater. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Gabriela Halligan and Kelsey Smith, “Ludlow Community Association,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 28, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/534.
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