Russell J. Toppin Sr. on Segregation in Cleveland

The following clip relates to the Ohio Department of Education curriculum for Social Studies education through:

  • American History Content Statement #28 – Following World War II, the United States experienced a struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil rights.
  • American Government Content Statement #7 – Constitutional government in the United States has changed over time as a result of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court decisions, legislation and informal practices.



Russell J. Toppin Sr. grew up in the Cedar-Central and Glenville neighborhoods. He worked at Addressograph-Multigraph and later the Home Repair Resource Center. In this story clip, he recounts the segregation he and other African Americans had to deal with in Cleveland in the 1950s and 60s. His account details the separate skating rinks in the city, whites went to Skateland and African Americans went to Pla-Mor. The city did not put signs up indicating segregation, however, he explains there were places where, as an African American, you knew not to go.

Potential Classroom Applications:

This clip highlights how widespread segregation of public accommodations was in the United States. Not only was it present as de jure segregation in the South but also as de facto Jim Crow in the North. A teacher could use this clip to take a closer look at how segregation impacted daily life for African Americans. This story clip provides a local connection to what was a country-wide issue, shedding light on the fact that segregation was not just in Montgomery or Mississippi.

Follow this link for the entire interview: Russell J. Toppin Sr. Interview, 19 June 2013

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