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Celebrating Black History Month: Jean Murrell Capers

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans. It is a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Ohio’s history is full of Black men and women who have helped shape our country. One such person is Justice Jean Murrell Capers, the first African-American woman elected to Cleveland City Council.

Jean Murrell Capers

Eugenia “Jean” Murrell Capers


Jean Murrell Capers: January 11, 1913 – July 18, 2017

  • Capers was born in Kentucky. She moved to Cleveland with her family in 1919.
    • Her parents were both teachers and stressed the importance of education.
  • In 1932, she graduated from Western Reserve University—now known as Case Western Reserve—with a degree in education.
    • Capers taught for five years, first at an elementary school and then as the health and physical education teacher at a local high school.
  • Capers felt she could help her community more with law.
    • In 1945, she earned her degree from Cleveland Law School—now known as Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
  • Through the years, she served as a private practice attorney, an assistant police prosecutor and an assistant attorney general.
  • In 1949, he became the first African-American woman elected to Cleveland City Council.
    • She represented the 11th ward for over nine years.
  • Capers served on the Cleveland Municipal Court bench from January 18, 1977, to December 31, 1985.
  • Quotes:
    • “I didn’t feel like I’d broken any barriers because I didn’t feel like there were any barriers to start with. It depends on what you believe about yourself and our parents had fortified us but that’s because they were educated themselves.”
    • “It’s your mind against another person’s mind. Not because of the color of your skin but what you’ve got under the skin that counts.”
    • “A Judge is the most important person in the whole community because he’s deciding the affairs of his fellow man. That’s the highest honor that you can be given for your fellow man to give you the opportunity to decide about him. That’s powerful.”

Source: Cleveland Municipal Court