Cleveland's Black History: Eliza Simmons Bryant

The founder of Eliza Bryant Village

CLEVELAND - The first nonreligious welfare institution supported by Cleveland's African American community bears her name, The Eliza Bryant Village. Before naming the center after its founder, it was known as the Cleveland Home For Aged Colored People.

Eliza was born in North Carolina in 1827. Her mother was a slave and her father was the slave master. Her mother, Polly Simmons, was freed in 1848 and moved her family north to Cleveland and purchased a home. Eliza had a warm spirit and opened her home to people who were homeless and looking for work.

In 1893, she saw the huge need to care for elderly African Americans who were left alone and denied access to white homes for the aged. So Eliza utilized the network of women in the churches and clubs in Cleveland.  A board of trustees was selected in 1895, and they met in each other's homes to discuss what needed to be done to create a home for African American seniors.

The meetings paid off. On Sept. 1, 1896, the Cleveland Home For Aged Colored People was incorporated, and it officially opened on Aug. 11, 1897 at 284 Giddings E. 71st Street.

It was renamed the Eliza Bryant Village in 1960 to honor the woman who had the vision to make her dream a reality.

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