Finding aid for the Josephus Hicks Collection of Church Records, Photographs, and Audio/Visual Materials

Josephus Hicks Collection of Church Records, Photographs, and Audio/Visual Materials
Western Reserve Historical Society
Phone: 216-721-5722
Hicks, Josephus
3.61 linear feet (9 containers and 1 oversize folder)
Josephus Hicks was an African American photographer and historian who lived in Cleveland from the mid-1930s until his death in 1998. In addition to photographing people and events in the Cleveland African American community, Mr. Hicks wrote the history of St. John A.M.E. Church, the Mount Zion Church and the Hough area of the city. The collection consists of church records, photographs, 16mm film, and audio LPs.
MS 5366
closed stacks
The records are in English

Biography of Josephus Hicks

Josephus Hicks (1908-1998) was born in Newbury, South Carolina. He was raised in Alabama where his father worked as a steelworker and local minister. Mr. Hicks attended prep school at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he earned a pre-medical degree in 1932. He taught and coached football in Anderson, South Carolina, until moving to Cleveland in 1936.

Mr. Hicks served as assistant superintendent of the Sunday school at St. John A.M.E. Church located at 2261 East 40th Street. He was a member of the Mount Zion Congregational Church, which was located on Cedar Avenue until 1954, when it moved into the Grandin Mansion on Magnolia Avenue near University Circle. Mr. Hicks also served as a probation officer and supervisor at the Cleveland Juvenile Court for 32 years.

In addition to his work in local churches and with the Cleveland Juvenile Court, Mr. Hicks was a noted photographer and local historian. He compiled and authored histories of St. John A.M.E. Church (1956) and a biography of Johnson Chestnut Whittaker (1994).

Mr. Hicks was president of the Glenville, Ohio, Area Community Council, and was the first president of the local chapter of the Delta Alpha Lambda fraternity.

Scope and Content

The Josephus Hicks Collection of Church Records, Photographs, and Audio/Visual Materials, 1947, ca. 1940s-1996 and undated, consists of records related to church activities, photographs of family, friends, and events, as well as a large collection of 16mm film documenting various church and local events and two audio recordings (78rpm LPs).

This collection will be of interest to researchers of the African American community in Cleveland, Ohio during the 1950s through the 1970s, particularly the East Cleveland and University Circle Areas. Anyone interested in the life and career of Josephus Hicks will also find this collection of note.

This collection is of value to those studying the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Ohio, particularly St. John African Methodist Episcopal., St. James African Methodist Episcopal, and Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Churches.

The largest series in the collection is the 16mm films. These include recordings of church activities, such as choirs and weddings, and also formal dinners, picnics, and sporting events which will be of interest to researchers looking into social activities, fashion, and mannerisms of the 1950s through early 1970s.

Most notable of the films are scenes from African American football games played in Cleveland, as well as color scenes of the crowd and events prior to a benefit football game between two historically black colleges, Wilberforce and Kentucky State, played at League Park, in Cleveland, Ohio, during the late 1940s. Also included are action scenes filmed during a Cleveland Buckeyes Negro League baseball game, played at League Park during the 1940s.

In addition to a focus in the African American community, the films are also of interest to students of the mid-20th century, including fashion, interior design, architecture, sports, and street scenes. One particular film was compiled from various films Mr. Hicks recorded during the 1950s in, and around Cleveland, Ohio.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged in four series.
Series I: Church Records is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically.
Series II: Photographs and Photographic Negatives is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically.
Series III: Films is arranged alphabetically by format and subject matter.
Series IV: Audio Recordings is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically.

Restrictions on Access

Access to portions of this collection is restricted. Consult WRHS Curator of Manuscripts for more information.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


African Americans -- Ohio -- Cleveland -- Photographs.
African Methodist Episcopal Church -- Ohio -- Cleveland -- Photographs.
Churches -- Ohio -- Cleveland.
Cinematographers -- Ohio -- Cleveland.
League Park (Cleveland, Ohio)
Photographers -- Ohio -- Cleveland.


Hicks, Josephus Franklin -- Photographs.


Cleveland Buckeyes (Baseball team)


Cleveland (Ohio) -- History.

Technical Requirements

Almost all of the films are in 16mm format and will require the use of an appropriate reel-to-reel projector for viewing.

Preferred Citation

[Container ___, Folder ___ ] MS 5366 Josephus Hicks Collection of Church Records, Photographs, and Audio/Visual Materials, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio

Acquisition Information

Gift of Kenneth Hicks in 2010.

Processing Information

Processed by Robert Suriano in 2016.

Detailed Description of The Collection

Series I: Church Records, 1967-1996

Box 1 / Folder 1
Cory Methodist Church directory and program, highlighting the 95th anniversary of the Church, 1967

Box 1 / Folder 2
Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Congregational Church Men's Fellowship, including meeting agenda, minutes, and some photographs, 1994-1996

Series II: Photographs and Photographic Negatives, 1959-1984; undated

Box 1 / Folder 3
Africa, including photographs taken of local school children and a construction project, as well as of meetings with local leaders and families, undated

Box 1 / Folder 4
Anderson, Eloise (photographic negatives), undated

Box 1 / Folder 5
Class and faculty photographs, Mary McLeod Bethune School, 11815 Moultan Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, undated

Box 1 / Folder 6
DuBose's choir (photographic negatives), undated

Box 1 / Folder 7
East 106th Street Club (photographic negatives), 1977

Box 1 / Folder 8
Formal dinners and parties, undated

Box 1 / Folder 9
Group portraits (unidentified), 1984

Box 1 / Folder 10
Hicks family, undated

Box 1 / Folder 11
Hicks, Josephus, undated

Box 1 / Folder 12
Individuals (unidentified), undated

Box 1 / Folder 13
Parties and picnics, undated

Box 1 / Folder 14
St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday school (photographic negatives), undated

Box 1 / Folder 15
School classroom activities, undated

Box 2
Small (2.5"x2.5") negatives arranged alphabetically, including photographs of African Methodist Episcopal church conferences, Alpha Phi Alpha sorority, camps, various weddings (including McKissicks, McFarlin, and Wright), the McHarry Club, NAACR Junior Group, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People meetings, conferences, and youth groups, Ohio Boystown, Protestant Big Brothers, St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Tried Stone Baptist Church, and portraits of various people including John Kellogg, Jim Rosboro, Rev. Simms, Amanda Wicker, and Judge Whitloch., 1959-1969

Series III: Films, 1947; ca. 1940s-1960s; undated

Box 3
Extended 16mm films including one on Phillis Wheatley, one titled City of Cleveland 1950s, and one titled Dunbar Insurance, ca.1950s

Box 4
Short 16mm films about church activities, including educational programs, and related specifically to St. John African Methodist Episcopal and St. James African Methodist Episcopal churches, undated

Box 5
Short 16mm films about various family activities, including football, track meets, Boy Scouts, visits to the Cleveland Zoo, and one film on the Ward Apartments, ca.1960s

Box 6
Short 16mm films about various parties, dinners, dances, and women's events. Additional films include Elks Club activities and a Wilberforce University parade, undated

Box 7
Short 16mm films, both original and restored, including digitized and analog Betamax formats of an unidentified Cleveland vacation bible school class, unidentified African American football teams, color film of crowd scenes at a benefit football game between Wilberforce College and Kentucky State College played at League Park, and black and white action scenes from a Cleveland Buckeyes Negro League baseball game filmed in League Park, Cleveland, Ohio., 1947

Box 8
Short 16mm films, including graduations, children at play, and unidentified, undated

Box 9
Short 16mm films, unidentified, undated

Series IV: Audio Recordings, 1981; undated

Folder Oversize 1
A. Grace Lee Mims Spirituals, 78rpm LP, produced by H&GM Records, Cleveland, Ohio, 1981

Folder Oversize 1
The Best of Antioch, the Sanctuary Choir of the Antioch Baptist Church, 78rpm LP, produced by Century Advent Recording, Cleveland, Ohio, undated