Ohio History Journal

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Black Elected Officials in Ohio, 1978:

Characteristics and Perceptions



Over the past few years, Black political involvement has become a major

focus of organized activities in Black communities. Much of this

involvement has been manifested in local elections involving Black

candidates for public office. The results of these elections have established

beyond a shadow of a doubt that Black voters have the resources and the

emotional commitment required to elect Black politicians to important

government positions.1

To date, a number of studies have analyzed the development of the

politics of Black candidates and the problems they encountered upon

obtaining public office. The most significant study of this nature is William

E. Nelson and Phillip J. Meranto's analysis of Black mayoral elections.2

Although the primary focus of this study is concentrated upon the

strategies utilized by Black candidates in Cleveland, Ohio and Gary,

Indiana to win the mayorship of their cities in 1967, it also addresses the

larger question of how Black elected officials perform as public officials.

Nelson and Meranto conclude that the election of Black mayors has not

achieved the results envisaged by advocates of increased Black electoral

participation; instead, at many levels of government Black elected officials

face not only problems common to White officials, but a range of problems

unique to Blacks as well.3

Another significant study of the perceptions and roles of Black elected

officials is Leonard Cole's, Blacks in Power.4 In this study Cole compares

the attitudes of Black and White elected officials spanning a range of issues,

and assesses the success of Black elected officials as power brokers with




Carolyn M. Morris is Assistant Professor in the Department of Black Studies, The Ohio

State University.


1. For more information on the total number of Black elected officials in America, see

James Conyers and Walter Wallace, Black Elected Officials (New York, 1976) and Joint

Center for Political Studies, Black Political Participation: A Look At the Numbers,

(Washington D.C., 1975).

2. William E. Nelson and Philip J. Meranto, Electing Black Mayors: Political Action in the

Black Community (Columbus, 1977).

3. Ibid.

4. Leonard Cole, Blacks in Power (Princeton, N.J., 1976).