John Anthony Boyd Interview, 2008

John Anthony Boyd, a Cleveland-born social worker and political activist, discusses changes in the Central neighborhood since the late 1950s. Boyd was honored by the 5th Disctrict Police Department (Cleveland, Ohio) with the award for Dedication to Citizens. Interview is cut short at about 9 minutes.

Participants: Boyd, John Anthony (interviewee) / Robinson, Angela (interviewer)
Collection: University Circle
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Angela Robinson [00:00:05] This is Angela Robinson, researcher for Cleveland State University Oral History Project on University Circle. What is your name?

John Anthony Boyd [00:00:22] My name is John Anthony Boyd.

Angela Robinson [00:00:24] And where were you born?

John Anthony Boyd [00:00:26] I was born here in Cleveland, Ohio.

Angela Robinson [00:00:31] Where did you go to school?

John Anthony Boyd [00:00:34] I was... Actually, I was born and raised here. I went to elementary school. I went to Bolton Elementary, which is no longer on 89th and Cedar. It was torn down and rebuilt. I went to Rawlings Junior High and I went to East Tech for a short period of time.

Angela Robinson [00:00:52] Okay. Well, what is your occupation?

John Anthony Boyd [00:00:58] Social worker. For the last seven years, I've been practicing social work, working with so-called at-risk youth. Particularly inner-city youth between 18 and well, say, 17, 16 and 21.

Angela Robinson [00:01:22] How long?

John Anthony Boyd [00:01:22] For the last about five years.

Angela Robinson [00:01:27] Have you received any awards or special recognition?

John Anthony Boyd [00:01:35] Well, yeah. Actually, relative to my community involvement, I received in... Well, I ran for the precinct committee, the Cuyahoga County Central Committee, in '06. I won that election and I'm currently in, serving in that capacity now as an elected official from this community.

Angela Robinson [00:02:03] As a what? A council...

John Anthony Boyd [00:02:04] Precinct committee...

Angela Robinson [00:02:07] Okay.

John Anthony Boyd [00:02:07] Member. Which is like basically, you know, a pundit, a council person. However, I did run for city council a couple of months ago to represent this ward. But back to the wards and recognitions. In December, I received an award and recognition from the, the City of Cleveland Community Relations Board from the Fifth District Police Department for dedication and community service to the citizenry of this area. That was the latest award. They gave me that little plaque and a certificate of recognition at a policemen's dinner.

Angela Robinson [00:02:52] I'm not sure... You've already answered this question, but how long have you lived in Cleveland?

John Anthony Boyd [00:02:57] 51 years.

Angela Robinson [00:02:58] 51 years.

John Anthony Boyd [00:02:59] Same house, same street.

Angela Robinson [00:03:01] Oh, really? Okay.

John Anthony Boyd [00:03:02] Yeah. Yeah.

Angela Robinson [00:03:11] You grew up here in the area. What do you remember most about this community?

John Anthony Boyd [00:03:18] Well, you know, I've lived here. I was born and raised in this house. My family moved here. And my great grandmother, actually, she purchased this house in, this home in 1923. I even have a few photos of a Model-T sitting, sitting out in front of the house in the '20s. So it's been a generational home. So from my great grandmother to my grandmother, to my mother, and now I'm the proud owner of it. And so the generational thing continues. But this neighborhood is no reflection of what it used to be when I was growing up. I mean, I understand I'm still relatively young. You know, 51 is not that old. I certainly don't feel 51. Hope I don't look 51. [laughs] But it was, you know, it was just a close-knit community, a close-knit, blue-collar, working-class, black community. You know, there, there are... I have, I have such memories, fond memories of this neighborhood because one of my like childhood girlfriends like grew up two doors away. She's now a successful black movie actress in Hollywood, Vanessa Bell Calloway.

Angela Robinson [00:04:36] Okay.

John Anthony Boyd [00:04:37] And she and I grew up together as kids. That was like my first girlfriend, you know, like seven, eight years old. You know, I remember when I was a child, a kid that Bobby Womack and his brothers, Harry and Cecil and his mother and father, they lived on this street, too. And so, you know, I can remember times when I used to go down there while they were in the driveway drinking wine and singing and doo-wopping, and I was trying to sing with them. So, you know, it was really a good neighborhood, a close-knit neighborhood back then and in the '60s when I was growing up.

Angela Robinson [00:05:17] In the '60s.

John Anthony Boyd [00:05:17] Yeah. Yeah.

Angela Robinson [00:05:20] Okay.

John Anthony Boyd [00:05:20] You know, the homes were well taken care of. You know, regular blue-collar, working-class family, you know, struggling, trying to make ends meet and, you know, helping one another out, you know, if and when that was needed or required. You know, everybody knew each other, you know, and everybody everyone looked out for each other.

Angela Robinson [00:05:42] When you say helping one another out, helping them out by...?

John Anthony Boyd [00:05:46] Well, you know, if a family was struggling and, you know, they didn't have a whole lot of food, for instance, you know, they could always go to somebody's house to get a meal, you know, or they could always send their kid or their children. Send their kids down to the house and say, ask Miss, ask Miss Shanklin, for, you know, something to eat or, you know, some sugar, or some flour or whatever, you know, that type of thing. So and we were just very close-knit, particularly on this street, you know. But the entire neighborhood, this, this street was a reflection of the surrounding community here because we were a close black community then.

Angela Robinson [00:06:24] You said it was a blue-collar community. What were some of the jobs people held?

John Anthony Boyd [00:06:33] Well, they were... There was a lot of... There was some factory jobs. They had a brewery plant up here on Quincy. You know, there was... We had some doctors, we had some lawyers. You know, they lived in this area, too. It wasn't just a blue-collar community. We had some professional folks here, too. But that was just a, it was a mixture of folks, but primarily blue-collar. But we were such a tight-knit community, you know, we looked out for each other. So you had a mixture of everybody here. The steel mill was open then and Ford was doing what they were doing in the, the brewery was open. We had some schoolteachers, you know, and just regular working folks, you know. And then you had the underclass folks, you know, they were trying to make it the best way they could because the, the policy was real big in the black community then too. You know, the numbers game, the clearinghouse. So and it served a useful purpose too because it provided and fed a lot of black families in this community even though it was illegal, you know, and it the underground economy in the numbers was... I mean, my family was one that benefited from it, to be quite honest. So my grandmother, she booked and wrote numbers every day. You know, and that took care of a lot of black families and fed a lot of black families. You know, and of course, then when the, you know, those, those folks that's in positions to recognize that it was a multimillion-dollar industry, of course, they decided to undercut that and take that away from the black community and found a way and, and ingenuity to, you know, to make inroads into it and to stop it, you know, and themselves benefit from it. Thus, we have the state lottery every day now.

Angela Robinson [00:08:27] Yeah.

John Anthony Boyd [00:08:28] So.

Angela Robinson [00:08:29] Yeah.

University Circle

University Circle is home to many of the city’s oldest and most respected institutions: Severance Hall, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Case Western Reserve University to name just a few. Since 1970, University Circle Inc. (UCI) has coordinated development in the area. These interviews with UCI staff, community activists, and local residents and workers in the University Circle area, conducted by students as part of a CSU Provost-funded Undergraduate Summer Research Award project led by Drs.…