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Published: Sunday, 2/5/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

‘Out Stickney’ a unique part of Toledo’s history

Blacks moved from South to neighborhood

Frank Goldie, 92, grew up in the ‘Out Stickney’ community in North Toledo, an area where many blacks moving from the South settled. Frank Goldie, 92, grew up in the ‘Out Stickney’ community in North Toledo, an area where many blacks moving from the South settled.
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Though he hasn’t lived there in more than seven decades, the map Frank Goldie draws is clear.

Forest Cemetery at the bottom, with Stickney Avenue running up the middle of the page. He lists the names of the churches, the schools, the Alan Theater, and the names of the black families who lived on each street in the 1920s and 1930s, almost 100 families in all, by his recollection.

Mr. Goldie grew up in a small house on Pomeroy Street in North Toledo, part of the community of black Toledoans in “Out Stickney,” as the area was known.


Although historically North Toledo is associated with Polish immigrants, it was home to at least two separate black communities as well — one revolving around Stickney Avenue, according to Kimberly Caldwell, and the other around Manhattan Boulevard.

Ms. Caldwell’s 2001 Bowling Green State University dissertation, “From Africatown to Out Stickney: Reminiscences of a Toledo, Ohio African American Community 1919-1960,” is a detailed history of the settling and early black life in the Stickney area.

Out Stickney was bordered by Forest Cemetery on the south, Mulberry Street to the west, Central and Ketcham avenues to the north, and “Goose Hill” (where the Toledo Correctional Institution now sits) and Buckeye Street on the east, according to Ms. Caldwell’s research.

Many of the area’s first black residents came from western Tennessee, said Ms. Caldwell, who is assistant principal of curriculum and instruction at Bowsher High School.

One of the Stickney area’s first black residents was Ms. Caldwell’s great-grandfather Henry Lawson, Sr., who came from Mobile, Ala., sometime around 1916, Ms. Caldwell’s research found. He lived at 3216 Harvey St.

During this period, thousands of blacks were leaving their homes in the South, driven out by the lack of opportunities in the Jim Crow era and pulled north by the promise of better jobs, opportunities, and housing conditions. The mass movement would become known as the Great Migration.

Robert Harris, Bellzora Duhart, and Norman Bell gather outside True Vine Missionary Baptist Church. Mr. Bell, father of Toledo’s mayor, says he moved north to do what was best for his family and himself. Robert Harris, Bellzora Duhart, and Norman Bell gather outside True Vine Missionary Baptist Church. Mr. Bell, father of Toledo’s mayor, says he moved north to do what was best for his family and himself.

By 1919, Out Stickney had enough of a black community to establish a church, True Vine Missionary Baptist, at 3118 Pomeroy St.

Church was the center of community social life, recalled Bellzora Duhart, who grew up on nearby Wilcox Street. (The street no longer exists; it and several others on “Goose Hill” were cleared in the 1990s for the site for the prison).

“Church was everything,” she said with a smile, sitting in the church, now at 739 Russell St.

She and other children in the neighborhood attended Sunday school, sang in the youth choir, and would be at the church for various celebrations. “I’ve been here forever and a day, seems like,” she joked. Another community church, Spring Street Missionary Baptist, was founded in 1933.

Black migrants from the South found that even in Toledo, there were still limitations on their freedom.

“Even in North Toledo, it was unacceptable for them to live on streets north of Ketcham Avenue, and they dare not be caught west of Mulberry Street past dark,” Ms. Caldwell wrote.

Mr. Goldie recalled that when he attended movies as a child, seating was restricted to certain areas.

“Segregation was prevalent all over,” he said.

Added Ms. Duhart, “There were certain places where African-Americans could live. … Even up here, in Toledo. [Segregation] wasn’t just in the South.”

However, the Out Stickney area was somewhat of an anomaly, Ms. Caldwell said. “Stickney, unlike other Toledo [areas], including the east side and Rossford, was never home to an all-black section within the community,” she said.

“In fact, on the streets where African-Americans resided, they more times than not lived side by side with white neighbors, most of whom were of Polish decent.”

Robert Harris, who came to Toledo in the 1940s from Arkansas and soon bought a house in the Out Stickney area on Pomeroy Street, recalled he bought his house from a Polish man.

“All I know was s-k-i was on the end [of his name],” Mr. Harris remembered. Many of his neighbors were Polish, he said.

“I had no problem with them. They were real nice people.” His two sons and three daughters grew up in the house on Pomeroy, he said.

“I had some good days here,” he said. “This is my home. I’ll never leave it.”

The community grew and changed, particularly in the 1950s, as the city grew. What had been open spaces filled in, and with the building of the highway that would become I-280, Ketcham and several other streets were split in two.

By the end of the 1950s, a flurry of newcomers made the original area feel less small and intimate and more like a big city, Ms. Caldwell found.

Two of the thousands of blacks who left the South for Toledo during this period were Norman and Ora Bell, parents of Mayor Mike Bell, who moved to Toledo in the late 1950s from Louisiana. They bought a house on Stickney Avenue where they still reside today.

Norman Bell, who had recently left the military, said he didn’t feel as if he was part of a great movement of people; he was simply trying to do what was best for his family and himself by coming north.

“I thought I’d had difficulty getting an opportunity in that area [Louisiana] at that time,” Mr. Bell said.

With a bachelor’s degree in accounting, he was looking for a good job. At the invitation of a cousin in Toledo, he decided he wouldn’t return to Louisiana.

“I wanted to try to do better with my life,” he said. “And hopefully I would do better here.”

Ms. Caldwell, who grew up Out Stickney, said it was a wonderful place to be as a child.

“The children knew anyone could chastise them,” she said. “They grew up in a very safe and loving environment. … I think the gift of Stickney was we were reared in such a way that we were safe and secure, and we were loved. And we were allowed to become. And that was very important.”

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade or 419-724-6091.

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