We often say every day is Black history day here at Eliza Bryant Village, and, while we truly believe and uphold that statement, we also want to use the momentum behind the nationally-recognized Black History Month to honor our visionary founder as a leader and pioneer in Black history – Eliza Simmons Bryant (1827-1907).
Daughter of slave Mary “Polly” Simmons and her master, Eliza was raised on a North Carolinian plantation until she moved to Cleveland with her mother and two brothers. She married Needham Bryant, a brick layer. Over the next 30 years, the Bryant family became well known for their humanitarian efforts on behalf of “people of color.” The Bryant family provided African Americans in the Cleveland area, especially those who had moved from the southern states during the Great Migration after Emancipation, with basic essentials like food, shelter, clothing and guidance.
In 1893, at the age of 66, Eliza became aware of and distressed by the fact that Blacks in Cleveland, the majority of whom were freed slaves with no assets, were not eligible for admission to existing facilities, such as the Dorcas Home (aged white women) or the Baptist Home, because of segregation.
While Eliza passed away in 1907, her vision led the organization to provide a wide range of services and essential care for Cleveland’s Black elders, but it wasn’t until 1960 that the name was changed to the Eliza Bryant Home for the Aged and her memory honored. Eliza is interred at Woodland Cemetery.
Over the years, the home outgrew itself and was required to move locations several times before finally settling in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood in 1967. The organization changed its name to Eliza Bryant Village in 1999. Now settled on 17 acres of property, Eliza Bryant Village remains the largest employer in the Hough neighborhood and the oldest continually operating African American-founded long-term care facility in the United States.
Eliza’s vision of providing a safe space for aging Black seniors is alive today. The Village remains a pillar in the community and continues to provide high-quality services for seniors along the continuum of care in a safe, dignified and compassionate environment. We have developed a level of cultural competence in caring for this population that is valuable given the many health disparities affecting the individuals for whom we care. We are Black-founded, Black-led and Black-serving. To our knowledge, we are the only organization in the state with these unique and exceptional qualifications to do this work.
We continue to be a pioneer in the field of senior care and enrichment in an urban setting, upholding our tradition of excellence, leadership and dignified care for the nearly 1,000 seniors we serve annually.