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.
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
General f352.941 C574
The Library has CHRC annual reports for the years: 1965, 1972, 1978,
1980, 1981, 1983, and 1986. View catalog recordRequest slip
An abbreviated report was issued for 1967. Request slip
Virginia Coffey Papers, 1935-1984
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
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 recordRequest slip
P. Taft II Papers, 1922-1977
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)