Wendell P. Dabney      

Guide to African American Resources
at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives




Subject Categories



Cincinnati History
Library and Archives

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal










Cincinnati Human Relations Commission
  The Mayor's Friendly Relations Committee (MFRC), a predecessor of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, was set up by Cincinnati City Council in 1943 as a means of addressing tensions brought on by the economic and social reaction to changes during World War II. The industrial war effort resulted in a large migration to urban areas, especially from rural Southern areas. The adjustments to a new way of life both in work and in housing for the newcomers as well as the acceptance of them by the long time residents led to tension, harassment, misunderstanding and hostility. The race riots in Detroit earlier that year emphasized the danger of the situation. The MFRC was designed to help Cincinnatians through this difficult time of change.  
The constitution drawn up for MFRC stated its purpose "shall be to study and to work out the problems connected with the promotion of harmony and understanding among the various racial, industrial, religious and other groups in this community." The committee would not take over functions already in place but, rather, would develop policies affecting racial relations and refer problems to appropriate service agencies. The initial planning groups examined the areas of education, industrial relations, discrimination, church activities and social planning (such as health, welfare, housing and recreation). The committee had over 100 members and represented a cross section of the community. Members were appointed by the mayor or were voted in by the executive board. The Rev. L. Venchael Booth was one of the early committee members.
In August 1945, Marshall Bragdon from Springfield, Massachusetts, was appointed executive secretary and served until 1965. His duty was to supervise the staff and to carry out the goals of the committee. Years later, Virginia Coffey, who joined the MFRC staff in 1948, reflected on the positive changes achieved by the MFRC in the areas of theaters, restaurants, hotels, schools and public recreation through mediation and persuasion.
In 1965, the name of the committee was changed to the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC). Under its new name, the CHRC was to recommend "programs to insure equal enforcement of law and equal protection within the law, for all racial, religious, ethnic and economic groups in the community."
1967 was a tumultuous year for Cincinnati and the CHRC. During the race riots in June, the CHRC staff worked long hours to aid in restoring calm to the area. This was followed by weeks of evaluating the Commission's goals, successes and failures. The resignation of the executive director and several other staff members added to the problem. Before the year's end, Virginia Coffey was appointed executive director and quickly restored the confidence of city leaders in the CHRC.
Since that time, the Commission has continued to pursue its goals through intervention in the areas of police-community relations, neighborhoods, employment, housing and education. In the 1980s, women's issues and disability affairs were added to the CHRC programs. CHRC programs in 2003 included police-resident discussion groups and the "Do It Right" campaign which teaches students what to do if police stop them. Long-serving directors, in addition to Virgina Coffey (1968-1973), include Thomas Garner (1974-1982), W. Monte Whitney (1983-1992), and Arzell Nelson (1993-1998), and Cecil Thomas (2000-2005).

To learn more about the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, consult the following resources:

Cincinnati Human Relations Commission website


Cincinnati Human Relations Commission Annual Reports
General f352.941 C574
The Library has CHRC annual reports for the years: 1965, 1972, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1986.   View catalog record   Request slip
An abbreviated report was issued for 1967.   Request slip
Human Relations Newsletter
General f301.11 C574
View catalog record   Request slip
Cincinnati Human Relations Commission
Pamphlets 352.941 C574h
This booklet gives a brief overview of the work of the CHRC.
View catalog record   Request slip
Human Relations in Housing
General f977.14 C574 Hu
View catalog record   Request slip
Virginia Coffey Papers, 1935-1984
Mss 840
This collection contains correspondence, awards, clippings and other materials pertaining to Virginia Coffey and her work with the Mayor's Friendly Relations Committee, the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission and other organizations. For More information, please consult the collection register available in the Library.   Request slip
Cincinnati Women Working Audio Collection
Mss 2 AT, Interview 4
This oral interview with Stephanie Corsbie discusses Virginia Coffey's work with the Girl Scouts, the Mayor's Friendly Relations Committee, the Seven Hills Neighborhood House, and the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission.   Request slip
Robert L. Black Jr. Papers, 1957-1974
Mss 901
Robert L. Black, Jr. was a Cincinnati lawyer, who was appointed chairman of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission in 1967. His papers include reports, correspondence, budgets and newspaper clippings primarily from 1967 to 1972 when he was on the Commission. Topics covered include police-community relations, discrimination, employment, housing, education, courts, race relations, the Cincinnati riots of 1967 and 1968, the executive directors (David McPheeters, Jr. and Virginia Coffey), recruitment of city employees, government contracts and the Commission's interaction with other organizations, such as the Cincinnati chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Avondale Community Council and the New Cincinnati Coalition. For More information, a detailed register of the collection is available in the Library.   View catalog record   Request slip
Charles P. Taft II Papers, 1922-1977
Mss 562
Charles P. Taft II served several terms as a Cincinnati City councilman, was mayor from 1955 to 1957, and was on numerous boards and committees. His papers cover a wide variety of issues facing the city from the 1920s to the 1970s. Included is information about housing and urban renewal, the Mayor's Friendly Relations Committee (the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission), affirmative action, juvenile delinquency, and the Hamilton County Welfare Advisory Board. For More information, please consult the collection register available in the Library.   Request slip
Affirmative Action in Cincinnati
By S. Arthur Spiegel in The Cincinnati Historical Society Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 2. Summer 1979, pages 78‑88.
General 906 H673B
View article (PDF)
Neighborhood Registry
General f301.362 C574
View catalog record   Request slip
The Social Areas of Cincinnati: Towards an Analysis of Social Needs
By Michael Eamon Maloney
General f977.14 M257s
View catalog record   Request slip
City of Cincinnati 1981 Citizen Priority and Services Evaluation Survey
By Steven Robert Howe
Pamphlets f352.94 H858
View catalog record   Request slip
The Social Areas of Cincinnati: An Analysis of Social Needs: Patterns for Three Census Decades, 1970-1990
By Michael E. Maloney
General f977.14 M257so
View catalog record   Request slip

Sources Used for Historical Sketch:
  • Charles P. Taft II Papers, 1922-1977, Mss 562, Box 29, Cincinnati History Library and Archives. Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Cincinnati Human Relations Commission. Pamphlets 352.941 C574h. Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Cincinnati Human Relations Commission Annual Reports, General f352.941 C574, 1965, 1972, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983. Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • "Office Decor Bares Mrs. Coffey's Care for Human Issues," Cincinnati Enquirer, August 29, 1973.
  • "Debate over Halting Killings Splits Council," Cincinnati Enquirer, January 8, 2004.


Cincinnati History Library and Archives
1301 Western Ave., Suite 2133, Cincinnati, Ohio 45203
Phone: (513) 287-7030
Email: library@cincymuseum.org
Copyright © 2004-2020 Cincinnati Museum Center.
All Rights Reserved.
Images not to be reproduced without written authorization.
This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.