Monday, February 14, 2011

The Akron Color Line Project Performance

This performance was a definite must see!  The Akron Color Line Project Performance took place on Feb. 10th, 2011 at 7:30 pm in the E.J. Performing Arts Hall.  It was a cross between a musical and Broadway show.  The show was approximately 1 and a half hours long with 10 scenes all together.  Scene 1 -"The Walk around", was a collage of impressions, facts, and feelings about the City of Akron.  Scene 2 -"That" Akron Riot, was a report on the famous riot of 1900. Louis Peck was new in Akron. The Afro-American was originally from Patterson, New Jersey. He and his wife had been working in a restaurant since coming to Akron. Mr. Peck picked up six-year-old Christina Maas, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Maas, who was playing outside near her home on Perkins Hill, drove her into the countryside and left her crying and injured by the roadside with night coming on. He drove back into town and abandoned the rented horse and buggy. He was quickly traced through a Main Street liveryman. Every policeman on duty was notified of the crime and began looking for Peck. Officer Duffy, while patrolling Union Station shortly after midnight, arrested Peck who was caught jumping from a freight train car. He was taken to the city prison. Mr. Washer, the prison keeper, spent the rest of the night securing a full confession from Louis Peck. At 9:00 that morning he was arraigned before mayor’s court. He pleaded guilty to the charge of rape and his bond was set at $5,000. Because of his inability to furnish bail, he was bound over to prison. Exaggerated stories of Peck’s confession of the criminal act, the evening papers (one was printed in red ink) and cries of the newsboys selling them stirred up intense feelings of resentment. As early as noon, threats of a lynching were being made to the authorities. The executive government heard rumors of trouble brewing all afternoon. Paying attention to these threats, they ordered Sheriff Frank G. Kelly to take the prisoner to Cleveland for safe keeping. Another colored man, William Howard (who was awaiting commitment to county jail), was also moved for safety. The Akron authorities then congratulated themselves on such a wise plan. The crowds began to gather at Main and Howard Streets shortly after 6:00. There was much banter of taking matters into their own hands. As it began to grow dark, the crowd closed in on the City Building. They began calling for Peck and taunted the police officers within. The Chief of Police summoned every available man for duty. The group tried to push into the building but the officers barred them. The first attack on the building was a shower of brick and stones. Then a ladder was used as a battering-ram on the north doors. The doors were rapidly giving way. A police officer opened one of the front windows and emptied his revolver over heads of the mob and into the spectators that were observing from across the street. His bullets struck and killed four-year-old Rhoda Davidson and ten-year-old Glen Wade. Hundreds of shots were fired and charges of dynamite exploded repeatedly. Two large buildings, Columbia Hall and the City Building, were burned to the ground. They started the car, ran it about the streets until bored, and then ran it into the canal.Eventually a committee of six, headed by a very vocal member of City Council, was appointed from the mob to inspect the jail for Peck. When the doors opened, the mob poured in. They searched every corner and found no Negro within. Even Mr. Washer’s private apartments were raided. The mob, greatly disappointed, headed for the county jail. It was searched to no avail. They promptly moved to the Old Court House, battered in the doors, and searched every room except the office of the treasurer. The heavy iron doors held fast. The crowd hurried back to the City Building. When the mayor appeared in an open window at the health center and motioned for silence, the people became attentive. When the mayor explained that Peck had been taken to Cleveland, the crowd refused to believe and the attack was renewed with passion. By 4:00 o’clock that morning, the scene was nearly deserted. By 7:00 the first of the militia arrived. Eventually forty-one men and boys faced charges related to the riot; thirty were convicted.  Scene 3-" Howard Street:  The Jewel of Akron", was based around the idea of Howard Street being the place to party, pimps and prostitutes and an area where a lot of the blacks hung out. Scene 4 - "Free at Last! Free at Last! - Not Quite, was based on a scene in Yeager's Department Store with a black couple trying to buy a dress and the white folk laughed them off because they didn't have enough money to pay for it.  Scene 5 - " Stories from the South", involving a scene on a bus where the black folk had to sit in a separate area than the white folk.  Another scene involved the White water vs. Black water and the segregation along those lines.  They both were very powerful scenes and really took you back to the way it was.  Scene 8 - " Remembering the Riots of 1968", In July 1968, several riots occurred over the span of several days centered in the city's mostly Black populated Wooster Ave./EdgewoodAPD well into the morning. The police department responded with higher and higher numbers of patrol units in the area to contain and arrest the gang members within the area, with an arbitrary curfew being enacted. By late the next morning of July 17, new police officers arrived to ensure the police actions from the night before were continued and peace restored. However at this point many residents of the area had begun to gather on Wooster Ave. near Edgewood Ave., having heard rumors of excessive violence on the part of the APD. Tensions between citizens and the APD had by this point had become high due to long-standing vendettas between the two sides based on an array of issues from discrimination, to police brutality. This is widely believed to have been the flash-point of the riots, as the black citizens began berating and challenging the APD officers. With the first arrests of some of the citizens, the level of confrontation and hostilities rose until a full scale riot was in progress. The majority of the local citizens in the area retreated to their homes in order to protect their property, while others left the area all together to avoid being swept up in the coming turmoil.  Overall, the performance taught me a lot about the civil rights movement here in Akron, Ohio and racial segregation and integration processes that the Akron People faced back then.  I am very happy that I had went to the performance.,_Ohio

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