Black History Month | 5 Inspiring Black Women From Cleveland

Phoebe Robinson  

Tamra Billinghurst-Black 

  • Born a New Yorker, currently resides in the suburbs of Cleveland.
  • Vice President at New York Life after serving in several roles, ranging from entry level to appointive officer. 
  • 25 years of experience in the financial services industry; holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a MBA in Quantitative Analysis from St. John’s University.
  • Member, Board of Directors, Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland – 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Board Volunteer award from the Boys & Girls Clubs Michigan/Ohio Area Council.
  • Check her out in Crain’s Cleveland Business.

Zelma Watson George (1903-1994)

  • Born in Texas, came to Cleveland as a recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation grant to study African American music. 
  • Zelma was the first black woman to play a leading predominately white role on Broadway.While in Cleveland she wrote and acted in several musical and opera productions.
  • In the 1950s, George served on several government committees at the national level.
  • She was honored with a role as a good-will ambassador and an appointment as U.S. alternate delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.
  • From 1966-74 she served as the director of the Cleveland Jobs Corps.
  • After retiring she lectured at Tri-C.

Fannie Lewis (1926-2008)

  • Cleveland City Council Member Ward 7 (1980-2008) – the longest-serving female council member in the city of Cleveland.
  • Civil Rights Activist.
  • Mainly worked to restore and improve the neighborhood of Hough in the wake of the 1966 Hough Riots.
  • Inducted into the Ohio Women Hall of Fame in Columbus in 1996.

A. Grace Lee Mims (1930-2019)

  • Born in Alabama and moved to Cleveland to obtain her MLS from Case Wester Reserve University
  • Soprano Soloist at the Fairmont Presbyterian Church.
  • 43 years as Director, Host and Producer of ‘the Black Arts’ on WCLV.
  • Teacher at the Cleveland Music School Settlement.
  • Member, jazz-folk ensemble, The Descendants of Mike and Phoebe.
  • Sang with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chamber Chorus. 
  • The Cleveland Arts Prize honored her for “a life committed to music, family and the contributions of African Americans to culture, history and the arts.”