Signs honor 5 African American leaders

TROY – Two signs honoring the accomplishments and contributions to the community of five African American leaders have been created and placed in the McKaig & Race Park.

The signs were a project selected by the city Human Relations Commission with help received from other community members, including historians.

“Many of us felt that regular citizens that have lived and currently live among us had contributed many very substantial things to further the progress of communities and people,” said Marvin Major, an HRC member.

“We should not only look for people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a model of transformation; he is undoubtedly a godsend rarity; however, many people within every community have made significant and transformative contributions. If we recognize people from our community, others have no choice but to be inspired to continue acts of kindness that will ripple throughout our communities,” he said.

Those honored on the sign are Perlema and Grace Sewell, business leaders whose generosity continues today through scholarships; Lucille Wheat, who brought early childhood education to the community; Charles Ross, a civil rights activist and the first African American city council member; and Charles Sharett Jr., who worked to promote race relations and served as the city’s first recreation director. All are deceased.

The HRC committee discussed many who have impacted the community on the path to selecting the five honored.

“They were able to thrive and excel with excellence in a challenging time. These fine men and women were able to inspire so many in their community. They created real positive change that our community still reaps benefits from today,” Major said.

The HRC worked with local historians to confirm information and conversations were held with family members to also gather information, said Sonia Holycross of the HRC.

The park, which lies between McKaig Avenue and Race Street in a neighborhood south of Main Street, was selected as the location for the signs after several others were considered.

“We decided that it was an honor to place the community leaders’ signs within the community so the park where our first Juneteenth (event) was held made the most sense,” Holycross said. The first event was held in 2021.

The HRC is working on other projects, including developing a walking tour and pursuing an Ohio Historical Marker. The commission continues discussions on a number of topics including jobs, transportation, child care, mental health and education. HRC representatives said the commission believes everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive and be treated with respect.

The HRC has a website at The commission’s meetings are open to the public. The meeting dates/times are posted on the city website.

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