Glenville Shootout

From Ohio History Central

The Glenville Shootout, one of a series of racially-charged riots that occurred in Cleveland, Ohio, during the 1960s, occurred the morning of July 23, 1968, when members of an African American militant group, led by Fred “Ahmed” Evans, and Cleveland police officers engaged in gunfire in the city’s Glenville neighborhood.

On July 23, a tow truck operator arrived at Beulah Avenue, between East 123rd Street and Lakeview Avenue, to remove a reportedly abandoned car from the street. After exiting the tow truck, truck operator William McMillan claimed to have been shot by a man with a shotgun from Lakeview Avenue. According to his account, McMillian was shot a second time while hiding behind his truck, shot again while running away, and identified the shooter as Fred “Ahmed” Evans.

Fred Evans moved to Cleveland with his family in the 1930s from Greensville, South Carolina, where he was born. Evans earned six medals commending his service in the Korean War and was honorably discharged in 1952. Evans re-enlisted but was court-marshaled after striking a superior officer in 1954, discharged in 1955, and returned to Cleveland. Evans became an active leader in Cleveland’s African American community and a Black Power militant movement. His Afro Culture Shop and Bookstore served as a local meeting place and fed the community’s increased interest in African culture. Racial tensions in 1960s Cleveland rose, especially after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968.

After the shooting began, Mayor Carl Stokes, an African American himself, called the National Guard and ordered that only African American police officers and officials would enter Glenville. Early on July 24, Evans surrendered to police. After shooting ceased, rampant arson and looting struck the neighborhood for the next several days, but by July 28, the National Guard helped to restore peace. Although the sequence of events that transpired remains uncertain, with various conflicting accounts to consider, Evans’ testimony is consistent with several accounts that the first man killed was one of his followers.

The shootings resulted in fifteen wounded and seven dead—three policemen, three African American militant members, and one civilian. Damages from looting and arson totaled $2.6 million, with 63 local businesses suffering losses. Fred Evans was tried and convicted for the seven deaths resulting from the violence. He was alleged to have conspired with others to cause the events that lead to the shooting and deaths of multiple persons. A jury declared Evans guilty of the crimes. Evans was sentenced to death.

The Glenville Shootout is one of many conflicts in Ohio and the United States in the 1960s which were a direct result of the African American community’s outrage with the lack of support from local, state, and federal governments. For much of the twentieth century, Cleveland's eastern neighborhoods lacked business development and predominantly African American neighborhoods declined as many residents, especially white ones, fled to the suburbs and the government failed to assist them.

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