African-American Civil Rights Trail

Walk in the footsteps of Cleveland’s African American civil rights activists and follow their fight for legislative and social progress.

Explore the Trail

From historic Cory United Methodist Church to the Pegg House and Ludlow Community Association, through the Hough Neighborhood and historic stops in-between, you’ll follow a trail that features iconic destinations, each steeped in the history of Cleveland’s civil rights movement, commemorating the struggle and fight for equality.

History Was

We invite you to walk the path to equality and learn the history that was made across Cleveland during the 1950s, 60s and 70s—history that’s still being made today. Stand at pivotal sites, hear the stories that influenced change, and immerse yourself in the powerful story of our city’s courageous contributions to sweeping legislative and social progress.


Each stop on Cleveland’s African American Civil Rights Trail tells its own story—one that’s part of a greater history. We invite you to step back in time, one stop at a time, to learn more about the struggles, triumphs, leaders, and sites that all played a role in creating a more equitable future for African Americans in Cleveland—and across the country.

Ali Summit and the Negro Industrial and Economic Union

The Ali Summit and Negro Industrial and Economic Union represented the submerging of civil rights activism, the anti-Vietnam war movement, and professional athletes’ involvement in national and local politics. Cleveland Browns players had a central role in organizing the summit and the Union.

Learn More   |   Directions

Additional Markers Coming Soon


The press meeting, now called the Ali Summit. In attendance were Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, John Wooten, Curtis McClinton, Sidney Williams, Bobby Mitchell, Jim Shorter, Willie Davis, Walter Beach III, Carl Stokes, Lorenzo Ashley, Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Photo courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society.

September 8th, 2023 at 4pm

Ali Summit Historical Marker Unveiling at Cleveland Browns Stadium, South Plaza

Join Cleveland Restoration Society and the Cleveland Browns at the Cleveland Browns Stadium’s South Plaza on Friday, September 8th at 4pm for the unveiling of the Ali Summit Marker to honor the historic event and the Cleveland Browns athletes who were involved. 

It happened right here in Cleveland. On June 4, 1967, at 105-15 Euclid Ave. at the Negro Industrial and Economic Union headquarters, boxer Muhammad Ali sat among a group of ten men and reiterated to reporters his refusal to be inducted into the Vietnam War. The men, who consisted of former and current professional and collegiate athletes—largely from the Cleveland Browns—and then-attorney Carl Stokes, all stood alongside Ali after failing to change his mind. On principle, they stood in solidarity with him and received criticism for their decision. Just two weeks later, an all-White jury found Ali guilty of draft evasion. He was released on bail pending an appeal, but had his passport confiscated and took a hiatus from boxing. In 1971, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction.

The Ali Summit and Negro Industrial and Economic Union represented the merging of civil rights activism, the anti-Vietnam war movement, and professional athletes’ involvement in national and local politics. Members of the Union were embedded in Cleveland’s Black community, understood its struggles, and used their resources and status as celebrities to facilitate change. For these reasons, the summit and the Union have been chosen as a part of the Cleveland Civil Rights Trail.

Learn more about the Ali Summit and Negro Industrial and Economic Union HERE.

November 2nd, 2023 at 10:30AM

Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church Historical Marker Unveiling

Join Cleveland Restoration Society at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church on Thursday, November 2nd, 2023 at 10:30am for the unveiling of the Greater Abyssinia Historic Marker, to honor the church’s important role in Cleveland’s Civil Rights movement. The church will be open for tours a half hour before and after this ceremony. This program is free and open to the public. 

Following the marker unveiling at 11:30am, Cleveland Restoration Society’s annual Community Luncheon will be held at the neighboring Cory United Methodist Church. This is a ticketed event, and registration will open on Wednesday, September 6th.

Greater Abyssinia stands as a landmark in Cleveland’s civil rights movement. Under the 62-year leadership of Rev. Dr. E. Theophilus Caviness, the church has been a hub for civil rights activism and community engagement. In 1964, members of the church formed a Civil Rights Committee to aid and assist the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the United Freedom Movement (UFM). The church served as the headquarters of the UFM, which was on the frontlines of Cleveland’s civil rights campaign to desegregate its public schools. The Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church, its leadership, members, and community engagement are exemplary examples of Cleveland’s civic leadership and commitment to racial equality.

The steady leadership of the Rev. Dr. E. Theophilus Caviness in both the civic and political life of Cleveland and his exceptionally long tenure in religious circles distinguish him and the church he leads in the Civil Rights movement in Cleveland. 

In conjunction with the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church Historic Marker Unveiling Ceremony, the Cleveland Restoration Society’s Community Luncheon this year will honor Rev. Dr. Caviness, pastor of Greater Abyssinia. Installed at Greater Abyssinia in November 1961, Rev. Caviness has been a crucial player in many pivotal moments of Cleveland’s Civil Rights movement. A friend and supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Caviness organized clergy in Cleveland to support King’s Selma to Montgomery movement and supported his voting registration efforts in Cleveland to elect Carl B. Stokes, the nation’s first African American mayor of a major U.S. city.

Stokes later appointed Caviness as the first Black person to chair the Zoning Board. Caviness also served as Councilman for Ward 25. Cleveland Mayor George V. Voinovich appointed Caviness as special assistant, and as governor, named him the chair of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Rev. Dr. Caviness’s relationship with Governor Voinovich proved crucial in saving Central State University, one of Ohio’s most important historically Black land-grant universities in Wilberforce, Ohio. These political positions allowed him unique access to power that he used to help further civil rights, social justice and economic parity issues.

Learn more about Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church and Rev. Dr. Caviness HERE.


We are honored to acknowledge the following sponsors and grantors who embrace our mission of historic preservation.

This material was produced with assistance from the African American Civil Rights Grant Program, administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.

This website is made possible, in part, by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This project has been funded in part by a grant from the Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Additional support is provided by a generous anonymous donor, and Maxine Isaacs, daughter of Bernard Isaacs, co-founder of the Ludlow Community Association.


Whether Cleveland is your home or you’re visiting our great city, we urge everyone to rediscover the heart, soul and tenacity that lives in its history. Visit any of these sites to gain new perspective and a new appreciation for the history behind Cleveland as it is today.