You can learn Northeast Ohio’s history of anti-slavery activism at Cozad-Bates House
The Cozad-Bates House is a beacon of light, keeping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Nestled off Mayfield Road between East 155th Street and Circle Drive is the oldest and only surviving pre-civil war structure in University Circle.
The Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center has a mission to highlight Northeast Ohio’s history as a center of anti-slavery activism.
“If we don’t study the lessons of history, we’ll be doomed to repeat it. And I think that is one of the primary functions of the Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center, it sets an important context for anti-slavery activism that occurred before the Civil War even started, what happened during the Civil War and the struggles that still continue to this day. So this is what we’re about. We’re about educating people about what happened coming up to this point, and how those struggles still exist in modern times,” said Becky Voldrich, Senior Director of Communications and Events, University Circle Inc.
In March 2022, The National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom accepted the Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center as one of 16 new listings.
Inside the home are photographs, newspaper articles, maps, signs and other memorabilia documenting history.
Outside the home are constellations embedded in the sidewalk of the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, the North Star guiding the way to freedom.
It is named for 93-year-old Joan Southgate, retired social worker and activist who founded Restore Cleveland Hope and advocated for the house.
The Next 400 team at 19 News sat down in 2019 with the grandmother and she spoke of her 519-mile walk across Ohio, recreating The Underground Railroad journey years before.
“I found that once I began, the walking was easy for a little old 73-year-old woman. It was easy. So what was that? Spirit. Spirit. Spirit,” said Southgate.
And in that spirit, resonating at Cozad-Bates House, where knowledge is power, the theme of the 38th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration.
“I think Dr. King’s fundamental message was about love and acceptance of your fellow human beings. I think that in a place like the Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center, you can come and you can learn what happens the very real consequences of what happens when you don’t see people as people,” said Voldrich. “We need to connect with one another. We need to get past this and just love each other and be a better society.”
The Cozad-Bates House is shining a beacon of light, keeping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive.
“I would like to believe he’d be proud of the work that we’re doing here to, again, educate the community, to provide a gathering space where people can come and learn about subject matter that may not necessarily be comfortable to discuss, but it’s so necessary if we’re ever going to move forward,” said Voldrich.
The Cozad-Bates House, located at 11508 Mayfield Road, is open to the public regularly on Saturdays from noon until 4 p.m.
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