HomeArts & EntertainmentAfrican American Legacy Project of Northwest Ohio Preserves Toledo’s Roots

African American Legacy Project of Northwest Ohio Preserves Toledo’s Roots

The Toledo area has a vibrant history in the arts, manufacturing, transportation, sports and other areas.  With a rich jazz culture,  automobile and glass manufacturing, an active harbor aligned with intricate freight networks, Toledo’s past tells a story of growth and expansion along with grit and determination. A story ultimately about the people who live here..

The African American Legacy Project of Northwest Ohio (AALPNO, established in 2004), ongoing for almost 20 years, curates the history of Toledo’s African American community with a mission to tell these stories and to preserve the efforts that helped to forge this City into what it is today.

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Through research and preservation, the legacy project documents African American culture and history with a diverse collection of photographs, newspaper articles and historic artifacts to tell the stories.

Art Tatum: A Jazz Legend

Born in Toledo, Ohio in October of 1909, Art Tatum is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. With songs like “Tea for Two,” “Yesterdays” and “Night and Day,” he mastered a style of play unlike any who came before him.

“Art’s style of music was something the world had never seen before,” Benny Green, another jazz artist of the time, said of Tatum. Green explained Tatum was the only musician to “attempt to conceive a style based upon all styles, to master the mannerisms of all schools and then to synthesize those into something personal.” Some said, when they first heard Tatum play, that they thought they were listening to two pianists play simultaneously.

To celebrate and to preserve the career of the illustrious musician, the Legacy Project has compiled songs and memories of Tatum’s career, both within the museum and on their website. He will be forever known as one of Toledo’s great artists.

Toledo’s Legacy of Athletes

There is a long and impressive list of famous Toledo athletes across the broad spectrum of sports. Part of the history and culture collected by the AALPNO focuses on these talented individuals, including these three featured on the Project’s website:

Dr. John McKay Williams was born in Mississippi and raised in Toledo. He was All-City in both football and basketball at Libbey High School and All-Big Ten at the University of Minnesota, winning the Big Ten football title in 1967. The Baltimore Colts drafted Williams in the first round, and he went on to win Super Bowl V against the Dallas Cowboys. In between seasons, he earned a Doctorate in Dental Surgery from the University of Maryland and trained in forensic science.

Linda Jefferson began her athletic career in the 70s, before Title IX mandated equality for women in both education and sports. “Without question Ms. Jefferson broke ground for females. Not just African Americans, but all females. She taught women to set their fears aside and to move straight ahead—even when it is uncharted territory,” AALPNO explains. Jefferson also attended Libbey High School before playing professional football in the National Women’s Football League for the Toledo Troopers from 1972 to 1979.

Truman Claytor was a member of Scott High School’s undefeated Bulldog basketball teams. In his junior and senior years, he played in the state semi-finals, was selected First-Team All-Tournament and averaged 21.9 points per game. The University of Kentucky recruited him, where he played in both NIT and NCAA championship games (’76 and ’78). In the NBA, he played for both the Detroit Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers. Beyond sports, he served the community as a counselor, helping young people with addiction issues. 

Visit the museum to learn about the lives and accomplishments of the Toledo African American community. 1326 Collingwood Blvd., Monday through Friday from 10am-3pm, Saturday by appointment. 419-720-4369 or email info@africanamericanlegacy.org

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