Inside Cory United Methodist Church: where MLK, Malcolm X made history in Cleveland

Stephen Nartey September 28, 2022
Cory United Methodist Church/Photo credit: Cleveland Historical

The Cory United Methodist Church formerly the Cleveland Jewish Center was purchased for $135,000. But, the historical role its platform has played in the civil rights movement in the United States is priceless.  

It was meant to be a worship center for African Americans in Cleveland, but its roles transcended religion. It is one of the largest Black churches in Cleveland and undoubtedly, with the largest spaces in the United States. Its growing membership couldn’t occupy the facility until its debt was paid fully in March 1947. 

It gained national prominence when its premises became a rallying ground for civil rights activists in the 1960s. In May 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a large congregation at the Cory United Methodist Church. There was a gridlock, according to the Cleveland Historical, stretching twenty blocks at the church premises before he walked to the pulpit.

Another civil rights activist who addressed the Black community at the Cory United Methodist Church was Malcolm X on April 3, 1964. It was at Cory that he gave his famous speech “The Ballot or the Bullet”. 

It was on the same platform Malcolm X urged African Americans to take advantage of their right to vote and warned that people will be compelled to use arms if they were not allowed to exercise their alienable rights. 

The Cory United Methodist Church, which was initially a worship center for the Jews, was built in 1920. Named Cleveland Jewish Center, it was first occupied by the Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo congregation. It has 2,400 seat capacity auditorium, an indoor pool, a gymnasium and a branch of the Cleveland Hebrew schools. 

The migration of the Black community coincided with the decision by the Jewish settlers to move away from Cleveland. The center was sold to the Cory United Methodist Church in 1946. 

The church was named after one Methodist missionary, Rev. Bruce Cory, who carried the lord’s work in 1911. The church also purchased the Scovill Avenue Methodist property but an inferno made it difficult for the congregation to occupy it. It was able to utilize the facility fully after it was successfully rehabilitated. 

The church over the years has attended to the basic needs of its members including providing social support services where necessary. The youth of the church are allowed to access the recreation center for their fun games and learning activities. 

The church also provides funding for local sporting activities and social events in the community like beauty pageants and dance shows. It also provided access to its indoor swimming pool and gymnasium for its members to use. 

The church has also initiated campaigns to end hunger in parts of the world through its Eastside Hunger Organization launched in 1971. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 28, 2022


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