What do three Step Forward Head Start sites have in common with a former Cleveland Mayor, congressman, and city council president? Each have a passion for bettering their community, supporting families in Cuyahoga County, a drive for equity, and their names.
Three Step Forward Head Start sites honor the names of prominent and influential African American leaders. This Black History Month, Step Forward is highlighting the impact Louis Stokes, Carl B. Stokes, and George Forbes had on Step Forward, formerly known as the Council for Economic Opportunity in Greater Cleveland (CEOGC), Cuyahoga County, and beyond.
The Head Start site located on Cleveland's east side Lee-Harvard neighborhood is named after
Ohio’s first African American Congressman, Louis Stokes. As a lifelong public servant, the Congressman served Ohioans on a local and national level for more than 30 years.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Stokes was a graduate of Central High school, Case Western Reserve University, and Cleveland Marshall College of Law. Stokes began his law career operating his practice and making a name for himself as a passionate civil rights lawyer who would often take on cases pro-bono. 6
In 1968 - with the encouragement of his brother, Cleveland Mayor Carl B. Stokes – Louis Stokes took his dedication to justice and racial equality to Washington where he was elected to represent Ohio’s 11th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was Ohio’s first African American congressman.
Stokes went on to serve in the House of Representatives for 15 terms, sitting on several major committees. While in Congress, Stokes, a veteran, took a keen interest in veteran affairs. He notably secured funds for Cleveland's Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which also bears his name. 2
After retiring from Congress, Stokes returned to practicing law and began educating the next generation of lawmakers at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.
Step Forward’s Louis Stokes Early Learning Center, built in 1997, was the first Head Start site of its kind in the nation. It was built with 100 percent federal funds. The site is still operational today.
Carl B. Stokes
The Step Forward Head Start Site in the Euclid-Green community got its name from Cleveland’s first African American Mayor, Carl B Stokes. Stokes made history, not only in Ohio, but across the nation with a diverse career that ushered in many firsts for him and the community he served.
Like his brother, Louis Stokes, Carl was a Cleveland native. He was a graduate of East Technical High school, the University of Minnesota and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Stokes began his law career as an assistant prosecutor and eventually, became partner in the law firm Stokes, Stokes, Character, and Terry.
Stokes began his political career in the Ohio House of Representatives as the first Black Democrat. Stokes served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives before he went on to make history again in 1967, when he was elected as the 51st Mayor of Cleveland.
Stokes' election was nationally recognized. Not only was he Cleveland's first African American mayor, but he was also the first Black mayor of a major US city. During Stokes' two terms, he expanded job access in city hall to African Americans and women and championed efforts to restore the health of the Cuyahoga River, which inspired the Clean Water Act. 5
Although Stokes briefly left politics, he returned as a municipal judge and served as the US ambassador to the Republic of Seychelles. Stokes’ diverse political career made him one of the first African Americans to serve in all three branches of government. 2
Along with a Head Start site named after him, Carl B Stokes holds a special place in Step Forward history. During his first term as mayor, Stokes was elected president on the agency’s Board of Trustees.
After collaborating with several government services in 2002, Step Forward opened a new Head Start site in East Cleveland. The site is named after former City Councilman George Forbes, a community leader who dedicated his career to improving the quality of life for Clevelanders.
Although not a Cleveland native, George Forbes' life has been defined by public service to the city's residents. In 1963, Forbes was elected Councilman for Cleveland's 27th ward and served on city council for 27 years. In 1973, Forbes was elected president of the Cleveland City
Council, making him the first African American to hold the office. 4
Throughout his career, Forbes devoted much of his time to serving local organizations, including Step Forward, which was then known as CEOGC. Forbes served as Board Chair.
Like all of Step Forward’s Head Start sites, these three namesakes are rated high-quality by the State of Ohio’s Step Up to Quality initiative, which indicates the centers are excellently implementing standards for curriculum, technology, and kindergarten readiness. Step Forward, which established its Head Start program in 1965, has provided high quality education for the next generation of leaders ever since.
Dillard Van 1971, Carl Stokes and his brother Louis, accessed 9 February 2023, <https://clevelandmemory.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/press/id/8845/rec/2>.
1966, State Rep. Carl B. Stokes and his brother Louis Stokes, accessed 9 February 2023, <https://clevelandmemory.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/press/id/8778/rec/1>.
Noble Bernie 1979, Forbes, George L.: 1979, accessed 9 February 2023, <https://clevelandmemory.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/press/id/8778/rec/1>.
Dillard Van 1971, Black Caucus meeting, accessed 9 February 2023, <https://clevelandmemory.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/press/id/18119/rec/356>
1978 , George Forbes and Dennis Kucinich share a lighthearted moment at City Hall, accessed 9 February 2023, <https://clevelandmemory.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/press/id/8142/rec/174>
Dillard Van 1970 , Congressman Louis Stokes addresses an American history class at John F. Kennedy High School, accessed 9 February 2023, <https://clevelandmemory.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/press/id/8907/rec/4>
City of Cleveland (Ohio) 1967, Carl B. Stokes, 1967, accessed 9 February 2023, <https://cplorg.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4014coll18/id/4290/rec/17>
City of Cleveland (Ohio) 1967, Carl B. Stokes, 1967, accessed 9 February 2023,<https://cplorg.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4014coll18/id/4289/rec/16>
1969, Louis Stokes, 1969, 1967, accessed 9 February 2023, <https://cplorg.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4014coll18/id/4316/rec/393>
1 About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.va.gov/northeast-ohio-health-care/about-us/
2 Carl B. Stokes was more than Cleveland's first black mayor. (2022, November 05). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://clevelandmagazine.com/in-the-cle/terminal/articles/carl-b.-stokes-was-more-than-cleveland-s-first-black-mayor
3 Grant, J. (2022, November 17). How a burning river helped create the Clean Water Act. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.alleghenyfront.org/how-a-burning-river-helped-create-the-clean-water-act/
4 The honorable George Forbes's biography. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/honorable-george-forbes
5 Stokes, Carl B.: Encyclopedia of Cleveland history: Case western reserve university. (2021, September 14). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://case.edu/ech/articles/s/stokes-carl-b
6 Stokes, louis: Encyclopedia of Cleveland history: Case western reserve university. (2019, September 04). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://case.edu/ech/articles/s/stokes-louis