Cleveland’s Freethinking Past


The Cleveland area was a hotbed of freethought in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Here is an excerpt from The School and the Immigrant (1916), by Oberlin College professor of sociology Herbert Adolphus Miller :

The Bohemians

“In America, beginning more than 50 years ago, a reaction was organized until at the present time approximately two-thirds of an estimated million are aggressive free-thinkers. In Cleveland about half are Catholics and the rest free-thinkers, with only a few hundred Protestants. Both parties have many organizations and, while the feeling between the two is very strong, the common Slavic feeling manifests itself most strongly in antipathy for the German language. The free-thinkers are the more nationalistic, and fortunately so, for with the loss of the control of the church there is a tendency to materialism which can be counteracted only by devotion to some social cause. There is no group to which the mother tongue and national history can have more moral value. This is in part because their history is peculiarly rich… The influence of Bohemian history has been such that the people refuse to accept dogma, and even the children argue theology.”

Even the children?! It would be nice if that sort of critical thinking by the young was widely encouraged today.

In addition to the freethinking Czech immigrants, many other central and eastern Europeans who settled in this area during that time period were freethinkers as well.

Here’s hoping that the Cleveland area might once again be a hotbed of freethought!


3 thoughts on “Cleveland’s Freethinking Past

  1. Manya March 20, 2008 / 7:03 pm

    Very interesting. You don’t really think of free thinking when you think of Eastern European immigrants. This reminds me a bit of the German Freethinkers of the Texas Hill Country:
    My blogger name is the childhood nick name of a very famous Polish freethinker.

  2. MarkT March 21, 2008 / 12:43 am

    I’m of part-Polish descent myself, so I was compelled to do a little research- would the famous Polish freethinker be Marie Curie?

  3. Manya March 28, 2008 / 4:56 pm

    You are correct!

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