In 1967, no major American city had elected an African-American as mayor.
Despite Cleveland only having a 35% black population, Stokes and his supporters were confident that he'd be able to create a grassroots campaign to defeat the incumbent and make history.
Stokes ran as a Democrat, causing many voters to switch sides to the Republican party.
Stokes won by a narrow margin, securing his place in American history as the first mayor of a major American city.
An editorial from the New York Times shortly after Stokes' victory reads:
The success of State Representative Carl Stokes, a Negro, in winning the Democratic nomination for Mayor of Cleveland, where the population is only 35 per cent Negro, is an impressive tribute to the maturity and good sense of the voters in that Ohio industrial center...
This outlines just how it was so amazingly important that Stokes, as well as various other African-American politicians during this time, were elected to public offices. The only real way to make real, effective, and lasting change is through legislation. This editorial shows the changing of hearts, stating that the election of an African-American was an "impressive tribute" to the voters of Cleveland.