My Parent’s Time in Lexington, Kentucky

Group portrait of a large gathering of African-Americans in Lexington, KY, 1944.

This post covers the time from my father’s ordination, my parent’s marriage and the few months they spent in Lexington, Kentucky at Chandler Memorial Church. Click the link to learn more about the history of Chandler.

The news items below were transcribed from The Detroit Tribune (Detroit) and Colored Notes, The Sunday Herald-Leader (Lexington, Kentucky). Click the photographs to enlarge or to go to the websites where I found them.

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Thursday February 4, 1943
Albert B. Cleage ordained at Plymouth Congregational Church, Detroit, Michigan, by Rev. Horace White.

Invitation to my father’s Ordination. My personal archives

October 2, 1943
Rev. Albert B. Cleage of Detroit, Mich., will preach at the Chandler Memorial church at 11 o’clock Sunday morning.

Sunday, Nov. 7, 1943
Chandler Memorial church worship and sermon, 11 a. m., preaching by the Rev. A. Rice, Sunday school 12:15; Y. P. meeting at 6 p. m. The annual “harvest-home” ingathering will be held Nov. 21-22 Donations may be forwarded, or call 1356-X. Roger Stewart chairman. The new pastor, the Rev. A. B. Cleage will take charge Nov. 21.

November 14, 1943
Chandler Memorial church, worship and sermon, 11 a. m., preaching by the Rev. A. Rice. Sunday school 12:15. Special program at 3:30 p. m., sponsored by Mrs. Louise Newman. Participants are Prof. W. T. Seals, Miss Hattie Lee, L. D. Mills, William Smith and Prof. W. J. Black. The annual “harvest home” ingathering will be held No. 21-22. Donation may be forwarded or call 1356-X. Roger Stewart, chairman. The new pastor, the Rev. A. B. Cleage of Detroit will take charge next Sunday.

The Detroit Tribune, Saturday November 27, 1943
These young people composed the bridal party of the Graham-Cleage wedding at Plymouth Congregational Church Wednesday evening, Nov. 17. They are, left to right-Mrs. Frank Elkins, Jr, Matron of honor; center, the bride and groom, the Rev. and Mrs. Albert B. Cleage, and Dr. Louis Cleage, best man.

Friday, Nov. 19, 1943
The Rev. A. B. Cleage of Detroit, new pastor of the Chandler Memorial Congregational Christian church, 548 Georgetown Street, will take charge Sunday morning.

Present view of the former Chandler Memorial and parsonage as they appear on Google maps. The barracks like buildings surrounding parsonage and church were built as Lincoln Terrace Housing Projects.
The parsonage with Chandler Memorial church in the background. Formerly this was the teachers’ home (foreground) and Chandler Normal School (background, right) at Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, as it appeared ca. 1920

Sunday, Nov 21, 1943
Chandler Memorial church, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, pastor; worship and sermon 11 a. m., preaching by the pastor. Sunday school, 12:15, Young people’s meeting, 6 p.m. Theme of the morning sermon will be “Fruits of the Spirit.” The annual “harvest home” service will open today. All members and friends are urged to be present. Harvest home sale at 8 o’clock Monday night at the church.

Tuesday, Nov 30, 1943
Regular business meeting will be held Wednesday night at Chandler Congregational church, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., minister.

Sunday, Dec 5, 1943
Chandler Memorial Congregational Church, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., pastor: worship and sermon 11 a.m., theme, “The Messianic Hope;” music by the choir, Miss Pearl Blackburn, director; vocal solo, Prof. W. J. Black; saxophone solo, Prof. William Smith. Sunday school 12.15; Young People’s meeting, 6 p. m. The pastor is preaching a series of pre-Christmas sermons.

Sunday, December 12, 1943
Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., minister: worship and sermon 11 a. m., theme, “The Sin of Selfishness.” Sunday school, 12:15; Endeavor, 6 p. m. Important announcement by the trustees. All members asked to be present. The pastor is preaching a series of sermons dealing with the birth of Christ and its meaning or the individual.

Sunday, Dec. 26, 1943
The Chandler Memorial church, 548 Georgetown street, The Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr. will preach his Christmas sermon from the subject, “Star Of Bethlehem.” The choir will render special Christmas music, and Mrs. Louise Newman will be featured as soloist, Sunday school and Christian Endeavor will meet as usual.

December 12, 1943

The Lexington Herald, Dec. 29, 1943

January 2, 1944
Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. A. B. Cleage, minister: worship and sermon, 11 a. m., theme, “The Pentecost of Calamity.” Sunday school, 12:15; Endeavor, 6:30 p. m. The church annual meeting will be held Wednesday night at 8 o’clock.

January 7, 1944

The Lexington Herald, January 7, 1944

January 9, 1944
Chandler Memorial church, Rev. Albert B Cleage, minister; Worship and sermon 11 A. M., theme “Winning the Peace;” Sunday school 12;15; Y. P. meeting at 6:30 p.m. Communion service. Business meeting to elect church treasurer.

January 16, 1944
Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. A. B. Cleage, minister: worship and sermon, 11 a.m., theme, “Bitter Fruit;” Sunday school, 12:15 p. m.; Endeavor 6 p. m.

Saturday, January 29, 1944
The Rev. Albert B. Cleage, who recently resigned as pastor of the Chandler Congregational church, left Wednesday for San Francisco, Calif.

January 29, 1944. The Detroit Tribune
My father was called “Toddy” by family and friends in Detroit and was sometimes called “Toddy” in social items in the Detroit Tribune.

January 29, 1944
Toddy and Doris Cleage are due in from Lexington, KY this week. They have been there since their marriage in November. The young couple found the South’s dyed in the wool policy of segregation and oppression of Negroes most distasteful, and were glad when Toddy received a call to pastor a church in California. So they too will head for the Golden West.

Tribune’s Neighborhood of the Week

This is a transcription of a feature article that appeared in the black-owned Detroit Tribune, October 29, 1955. The archive of the Tribune can be found on the Library of Congress Web site “Chronicling America.” Follow this link to see the actual article The Detroit Tribune. I have added photographs from my family archive and corrected typos. Please do not reuse without permission and linking to this blog. Thank you.

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(Editor’s Note: Due to the hugeness of this area, the Tribune is forced to publish this series in two parts. The second part will appear at a later date.)

The Tribune’s “Neighborhood of the Week” is a feature series designed to afford people who generally are not in the news an opportunity for expression and publicity.

This is the sixth area to be covered by the TRIB in Metropolitan Detroit. And by some standards is considered as the “most fabulous.”

Called Gold Coast

Nicknamed as the “Gold Coast,” because of its richly furnished and lavish homes, this new neighborhood was a direct result of the outlawing of restrictive covenants. It literally sprang-up during and after World War II when the city was jammed with defense workers, and was practically bursting at the seams. Old homes are being torn down to make room for the new expressway system and new housing projects. And old Detroiters had to have some place to go.

So, they invaded this area north of West Grand Boulevard and west of Woodward.

Each time the Negro population has to expand, in this and most U.S. cities, there is always the question of where are they going. The problem of dislocation and securing of housing was also true in this case, excepting that integration was prevalent as another problem.

Nevertheless, those who were dislocated, evicted or homeless moved into the “Gold Cost” area from all points over the city. This ingress was so fast that this section is hailed as the fastest developed in modern Detroit history.

What were the consequences of this swift development? As usual, your roving Tribune reporter will take you along with him and find out, visiting the churches, the business places and the “average resident” and let them tell you of their fabulous neighborhood.

Central Congregational

Let’s stop the young and dynamic minister of the Central Congregational Church, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.

Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr.,front of parsonage.

Since their (the congregation) activities for the day were a fine reflection on the residents of the area, we think their project “Work Day For Christ” should be publicized.

The Junior and Senior Fellowships of the church with the slogan, “Being Christian Means Helping Others.” And they carried out this slogan to the highest as each member contributed a full-day of labor to their world-wide missions on Saturday.

Here is how they were scheduled:

After breakfast at the parsonage at 8 a.m., they worshiped for about 45 minutes before starting to work at odd jobs, such as car washing, holding a bake sale, raking leaves, washing windows and others.

The parsonage – 2254 Chicago Blvd.

They reported back to the parsonage at 12:30 for a box lunch, then at 1:30 p.m. completed or started on other odd jobs until 5 o’clock when they went for supper, returning at 7 p.m. for a two hour workers party in the parsonage.

Full-Day of Work

This was really a full day for the youths, but they seemed to enjoy it with enthusiasm and eagerness to complete more than two or three jobs during the day.

The Youth Fellowship is geared “to make real demands upon their time, abilities and talents … we accept only those young people who are willing to participate in the total program.

“Young people who are interested only in recreational and social activities can find other organizations and clubs designed to serve their needs.”

Thus, partially reads a somewhat of a preamble for the youth to follow in pushing the church program which has three basic areas of Christian Living, meaning Faith, Action and Fellowship.

More than two hundred young people enrolled in the church’s Junior and Senior Fellowships contributed a day’s labor to raise funds for Congregational Christian World Missions.

A breakfast for the young people was served by a committee of mothers in the recreation room of the spacious church parsonage at 2254 Chicago Blvd.

Mrs. Eleanor Hughes served as chairman and was assisted by Mrs. Julian P. Rogers, Jr., Mrs. Marie Scruggs and Mrs. Barbara Martin.

The breakfast closed with a service of worship and consecration conducted by the Faith Commissions of the two organizations. Participating were Miss Phyllis Hughes, Miss Andree Keneau, James Gilliam, Jr., and Miss Sharon Allen.

The Car-Wash was held at the home of Miss Beverly Baker, 11340 LaSalle Blvd., and parents, church members and residents of the community kept the cars coming from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

Car-Washing Crew: Car washing was among the numerous odd jobs that the Central Congregational Church youth did in working a day for Christ. Here the car washers pose just before starting their task in rear of the home of a member, Beverly, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Baker of 11340 La Salle Blvd. Washers were busy from morn to lat evening. Left to right: Miss Vinetta Jones, Claude Barber, in car: Misses Beverly Baker, Andree Keaneau and Linda Wallace. Julian Rodgers, II is in the rear.

While the car-wash workers, under direction of Curtis Faire, were keeping their production line moving, the Bake-sale and odd- committees were conducting door to door canvasses.

The seemingly inexhaustible supply of baked goods was sold out by two o’clock.

The odd-job brigade raked leaves, took down screens and put up storm windows, scrubbed floors, cleaned basements, washed dishes, and took care of children for busy mothers, and the jobs continued to pour in until the 5:30 quitting time.

On Sunday, members and their parents were invited to a special service of dedication at Central Congregational church, with the pastor, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., preaching on “Our Christian World Mission. Afterwards officers of the Fellowship group dedicated the money earned to Christian service.

The Youth Fellowship Choir under direction of Oscar R. Hand and accompanied by Larry Manderville, participated in the service. Miss Gail Payne rendered a solo.

2 1/2 Years Old

Central Church was organized just two and a half years ago by the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., with services of Worship held in the auditorium of the Crosman School, Hamilton at Clairmont. The church is now engaged in a city-wide Building-Fund drive to make possible the purchase of a church building.

The lack of a building, however, has done little to hamper the development of the church’s outstanding seven-day week program.

The church sponsors a Cub Scout Troop, a Boy Scout Troops, four Girl Scout Troops, two Youth Fellowship organizations, a children’s choir, a youth Choir, and a Boy’s Athletic Club with baseball and basketball teams in the inter-church Recreational League, in addition to a full program of adult activities.

The Men’s Club’s weekly Bowling League and monthly Forum meetings, and the Women’s Cultural Committee Forums, Square Dances, and Bridge Parties are community-wide in scope.

Wayne Graduate

Rev. Mr. Cleage, Jr., is a graduate of Wayne University and the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology. He had completed two years towards his doctorate in religious education at the University of Southern California. Before returning to Detroit, Mr. Cleage held pastorates in Lexington, Ky., the Fellowship in San Francisco, Cal., and the historic old St. John’s Congregational Church of Springfield, Mass.

Before entering the seminary he served as Director of Youth Work at Plymouth Congregational Church at Detroit while employed as a Social Worker. The pastor is active in the Congregational Association of Detroit, of which his church is the youngest of twenty-seven.

Central and Plymouth Congregational churches are the only two designated specifically as Negro in Michigan.

Mr. Cleage serves as Chairman of the Social Action Committee of the Association, and member of its Board of Trustees.

He is on the Camp Management Committee of the Association’s Camp Talahi located near Brighton, Michigan, serving as counselor at both Camp Talahi and the Congregational State Conference Camp, Pilgrim Haven.

Adult Advisor

Mr. Cleage is also one of three adult advisors for the Detroit Association’s Youth Fellowship organizations. He is a regular guest speaker at other Congregational churches. During the past month he has spoken in Eaton Rapids, Dearborn, and Birmingham. He has conducted youth seminars at two churches in Detroit.

At the Fall Religious Education Workshop sponsored by the Detroit Association at the Gross Pointe Congregational Church, Mr. Cleage conducted the Seminar on Youth Work.

Thus, for the moment, we’ll end our visit in the “Gold Coast” area, hoping you will again visit it with us upon our second trip.

Click to see original newspaper article.

Central Congregational Holds First Service in New Edifice

Transcription of an article by Robert L. Crump, which you can find at the bottom of this page and at this link to the Library of Congress “Chronicling America” where the archive of The Detroit Tribune can be found. Detroit Tribune September 28, 1957. I have added photographs from my personal collection and corrected typos. Please do not reuse without permission and linking to this blog.

The original stained glass window, later replaced by Glaton Dowdell’s painting of The Black Madonna in 1967.

The day was hesitant, it’s disposition undecided. Sunlight broke though the clouds only to be shut out again. People walked through the streets aimlessly and carefree – but inside the Central Congregational Church there was no aimlessness, no hesitancy or indecision. The congregation was observing its “Home Coming Day,” their first service in a new building.

Those chimes you heard before entering the church were played by brother (Henry). Inside you listened to the moving musical prelude by Mrs. Dorothy Blaylock, organist. George Branham knew. He expressed the sentiments of all when he sang, “Bless This House”.

James W. Stephens accepting the key from Rev. Wilcox.

Then came the formal presentation of the key by David M. Brewster and Jack B. Paul representing Brewster Pilgrim Congregational Church; and accepting for Central was answer to the supplication of James W. Stephens.

The choir. Director Oscar Hand front row far right.

As though they knew the “Bless This House,” the choir under the capable direction of Oscar R. Hand did the anthem “Praise To God” beautifully.

As you look to the altar you see a magnificent twenty to twenty five feet stained glass window. It is truly a masterpiece. The coloring is so tremendous that even when the sun isn’t shining on it, it still maintains vivid color life.

To the right of this window on the rostrum, Saturday Dr. Edward W. Wilcox for the congregational association on the left sat a man, who’s “dream” is now, reality, after four and one half years.

Now it was his turn to say “thank you” to those who had placed their shoulders to the wheel both physically and financially. I, and not I alone, watched him as he walked to the pulpit, he stood for a second and braced himself against the object that has for centuries been the symbol of self dedication.

Instead of the Ram that was tied in the thicket as in the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac he was offering himself as a living sacrifice, and dedicating.

Four members who died before the congregation moved into the new church.

He mentioned the names of four people who have passed, Mrs. Willie Strauther, Mrs. Mabel Clarry, Mrs. Eleanor Hughes and his beloved father. Albert Cleage, Sr. The timber of his voice changed at the mention of his dad. I realize it was extremely difficult to hold back the tears. His mother, Mrs. Cleage Sr. in an effort to help, turned her head and her eyes from him, two sisters in the choir hoped almost in available tones he would not break another sister and three brothers in the congregation did the same, and in a split second the power of combined prayer was manifested.

He spoke of the great friendship that still exists between Plymouth Congregational Church and Central; also the debt of gratitude that cannot be paid to the Rev. Horace A. White of Plymouth for his encouragement and advice during Central’s trying times.

He talked of the church’s position in the community, of the Ministers role in the church some of the development of a Christ like community’ like being able to look your worst enemy in the face and honestly see good in him. Then, “This Man” mentioned Nashville, and Little Rock and the disturbance that was taking place.

He spoke of Faubus and Ike and as he did my thoughts sort of wandered to three words, “Faith, Hope and Charity.” and another line, “But the Greatest of these is “Love”. Then with Rare Richness and tonal beauty Melvin Thompson sang, “I talked to God last night.”

While he sat listening to the solo and looking over the filled auditorium I know he believed in the inscription on the alter, “Love Never Faileth.”.

I had the pleasure of again shaking the hand of a man who’s dream was now a reality: The Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr. minister of the Central Congregational Church 7625 Linwood Ave. at Hogarth.

Click to enlarge

“It Will Be Twenty Years…” Looking for Nancy Williams

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“Information wanted of my children. I was sold from them in 1860. At that time we belonged to a man named Jacob Certain. I was sold by him to a man by the name of Buren Wardell, then living in Memphis, Tenn. The oldest child’s name was Millie, in her ninth year; the second was Mary, nearly seven years old. It will be twenty years in October since I saw them, and I would be more than glad to hear from them. Their youngest sister, Martha, is now living at Cape Girardeau, Mo. Any information will be gratefully received by their mother, Nancy Williams, Abbeville, Mo.”

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After reading this advertisement asking for information about the daughters she had not seen in 20 years, I decided to see if I could find her and her daughters. Here is what I found using census records, newspaper items, death certificates and marriage records.

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Nancy Williams was born into slavery in Florida about 1835 to Millie Palmer, an enslaved woman. Nancy was sixteen when her oldest daughter Millie was born. I imagine she was named after her grandmother. Two years later Mary was born. Youngest daughter Martha was born when Nancy was 21. There was a fourth child born, but there is no record except for the census records that say Nancy Williams gave birth to four children So I don’t know if that child was male or female and born during or after slavery.

I wanted to find the man who sold Nancy Williams away from her daughters. I first found a Jacob Certain in DeKalb county, Tennessee. There was no record that he was a slave holder. His father, Asa, held five people in slavery in 1860. None were the right age or sex to be Nancy Williams or her daughters. Both men died in 1861, leaving no will or probate record.

I found another Jacob Certain in Huntsville, Alabama. His occupation was listed as “slave dealer” on the 1860 census. He turned out to be a brother of Asa Certain back in Tennessee. (For more information about the domestic slave trade, click this link.) I believe him to be the one who sold Nancy and Martha away from her daughters. As he was a slave dealer, there is no way of knowing if he sold the daughters to someone else or who they would have been, or where they lived.

I found Buren Wardell, the man that Nancy Williams named as the one who bought her, in Memphis. He was a lawyer, later a real estate agent. In 1860 he had three enslaved people listed in the Slave Census, two 40 year old women and a 60 year old man. Unfortunately the census was taken in August and Nancy was taken from her daughters in October.

Mapping Nancy Williams Life. Click to enlarge.

After Slavery I found Nancy Williams and family In the 1868 Missouri State Census. She lived in Cape Girardeau with her husband Jesse Williams and her daughter Martha Williams. They owned two horses and one cow.

In 1870, Nancy was listed as 35, keeping house and like the others in her household, was unable to read or write. Her husband Jesse, 36, worked as a teamster. Martha was 14 and attended school.

Widowed

Jesse Williams, her husband, died sometime between 1880 and 1900. In the 1900 census, Nancy Williams lived with two lodgers, neither of whom seem to be related to her. She was able to read but not to write, had given birth to four children, two were still alive, her parents were both born in Florida, as she was. She rented her home, as a widow and no occupation is listed.

In 1910, 74 year old Nancy Williams lived with her granddaughter, 18 year old Vassey Barber. Both were widows. Nancy did laundry at home. Vassey was literate and was a cook at a hotel, possibly at one associated with her aunt Martha’s husband Manuel Scott, a well know hotel proprietor and restaurant owner. Nancy had birthed four children and only one was then living. Vassey had no children. Vassey was born in Arkansas and her mother was born in Mississippi. Both were listed as “mulatto”.

Vassey Berry Barber

Vassey was the daughter of Armilda Hite and her husband Isom Berry. Unfortuantely, Armilda (who was listed as ‘Millie” on several of her children’s death certificates, died about 1893 in Randolph county, Arkansas, before death certificates were kept. However, Vassey was listed as Nancy’s granddaughter in the 1910 census. In 1930, Nancy’s granddaughter, Martha was living with another of Armilda’s daughter, Norma Berry Byrd. Martha was described as “Aunt”.

Martha Williams Scott

Martha, Nancy’s daughter, married Emanuel Alexander Scott in 1874. She was 18 and he was 22. In 1876 Missouri State Census, Martha and Emanuel lived next door to her parents. Martha’s husband was eventually a noted restaurateur in Cape Girardeau. They had two children. One son, Philip A., survived to adulthood.

Item from the 1892 Cape Girardeau Democrat
Item from the 1897 Cape Girardeau Democrat
Obituary of Martha Williams husband. Click to enlarge.
The obituary describes Manuel Scott as being comparable to Tony Faust of St. Louis.

I believe I found Nancy Williams and her daughter Martha and her daughter Millie. I was unable to find Mary. I hope she was in touch with her mother before her death.

Christening of Doris Diane Elkins- 1944

Elkins Family photo- Mary Virginia holding Doris Diana, Frank Elkins .

Another item I found in the Detroit Tribune. My cousin Doris Diane was christened at our great grandmother Turner’s house in 1944.

Fannie and Mershell Graham
Detroit Tribune 1944
Sunday, four generations were represented at the christening of Doris Diane Elkins, the small daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins of McDougall. The ceremony took place at the home of the baby’s maternal great grandmother, Mrs. Jennie Tuner, of Harding avenue. Her paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham, also her paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins, Sr.; her aunts, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner, and Mrs. Elizabeth Roberts were present to witness the event. The baby’s godparents, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Franklin, of Oakland, Calif, sent their godchild a beautiful bonnet for the christening.
Doris Diane wearing her bonnet. 1944.

Cousins Christened – 1948

“Kris in Nannie & Poppie’s backyard. June 15, 1948. Watching the birds and butterflies. 22 months” It was my grandparent’s 29th wedding anniversary.
“Barbara – August 1948 – 7 months old”
The Detroit Tribune, Socially Speaking by Sylvia – July 17, 1948.
They should have given the names of the children!

“Reverend and Mrs. Albert Cleage (Toddy and Doris) and their little daughter are back home again in Springfield, Mass after a three week sojourn here with their parents Dr. and Mrs. Albert and Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Graham. During their stay in Detroit, a triple christening took place at Plymouth Congregational church when their 22 month old daughter was christened, along with the five months old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins, and the two children of Mr. and Mrs Henry Roberts All four children are cousins.”

I never knew that my cousin Barbara Elkins and two of her cousins were baptized on the same day that I was until I was going through the archives of the Detroit Tribune recently. It was published by my grandmother Fannie’s first cousin, James McCall and there were lots of little family mentions that were never mentioned in the white papers of the day.

We should have known that. As my sister Pearl said, it gave us a special bond, Baptism Sisters. Barbara and I did have a special bond. I didn’t see the other girls enough to develop a bond. They were Barbara’s cousins on her father’s side while we were cousins on our mother’s side.

Riot or Rebellion? July 23, 1967

Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman (Rev. Albert B. Cleage ) preaching.

Riot or rebellion?

By Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman

(Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.)

Below is a partial transcription of the sermon delivered above in it’s entirety.

Excerpted from “No Halfway Revolution,” text of a sermon delivered at Central United Church of Christ, the Shrine of the Black Madonna, on July 23, 1967, several hours after the Detroit Rebellion began:

“And Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ Then be bowed with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people that were in it. So the dead whom he slew at his death were more than those whom he had slain during his life” (Judges 16:30).

Our Scripture lesson is taken from the Book of Judges. While the riots were going on down in Watts [in August 1965], I preached on the same text. Samson is a good Biblical figure and he fits into the framework of riots and rebellion.

The Book of Judges has to do with the early leaders of Israel who presided over the young Nation Israel and were called “judges.” Samson was never a leader of Israel in the sense of having an official position. Yet his story is included in the Book of Judges because he was a leader in the fight against the Philistines. …

During this period when Israel was in bondage to the Philistines, Samson was the person people looked to. He was a kind of center, the outstanding personality. Yet he was different from all the other judges, essentially because the times were different. Israel needed somebody like Samson.

I remember when the riot in Watts was going on, the front page of Life Magazine pictured a young black militant with a do-rag around his head. He was a symbol of what was happening.  He represented rebellion against oppression.

So I have selected the same Scripture lesson now because that which started in Watts two years ago and which is now sweeping the nation is the same kind of rebellion against oppression which Samson represented in Israel. The same kind of hoodlum character emerges as some kind of peculiar hero because he does the things which have to be done at a particular time in human history.

Samson wasn’t any hero kind of person in normal circumstances. Normally people would have frowned on him. They would have called him a hoodlum. They wouldn’t have listed him in their religious scriptures as a “judge” of Israel. But during this particular time, he had what everybody wanted. He wasn’t afraid, he didn’t mind dying, he was emotional, he struck out against oppression. So everybody called him a judge of Israel. …

A riot becomes a rebellion when people tend to support the little group of people who begin some kind of violence. In America today, we have riots or rebellions taking place in almost every city across the country. …

This is the kind of times in which we live. We had our own riot here in the City of Detroit. Riot or rebellion, you pick your own word for it. I think what we had is a riot. I think it has been participated in by relatively few people — so far.

The radio stations called me and asked if I wanted to issue a statement asking people to cool it. I said I had been trying to get white people to do something that would make it possible to cool it for years, and nobody had paid any attention, so I didn’t have any statements about cooling it now.

I tried to explain that if everything is alright in Detroit, if nobody is alienated, if nobody feels oppressed, if all black people feel that there are other things they can do to change the situation, if they are confident that they have alternatives to violence, then it is just a little thing that broke out and it won’t last for long.

But if all black people in Detroit feel that they are helpless and hopeless, and that there is no chance of solving their problems peaceably, that they can’t solve them by the ballot or by organizing or by economics, then you have a rebellion on your hands — because, in that case, more black people are going to join in, once it has started.

There is a difference then between a riot and a rebellion. A riot is a little group, perhaps more interested in looting than in freedom. But a rebellion is a community that has decided that it will no longer tolerate the kind of racial oppression that it has been forced to tolerate.

So across the country we are getting a combination. In some communities there are riots. Little bands hear about what is happening somewhere else and think it might be good to have one here. And in other communities, it is not a riot at all; it is a rebellion.

People look around and say, we are tired of these slums. We are tired of all the conditions that we have to put up with. We are tired of the whole situation and we are not going to tolerate it any longer. And then a whole community erupts, and other people say, we don’t know why it happened. That is a rebellion. And more and more of these eruptions are rebellions, rather than riots.

Now in any period of rapid social change … you are going to get all kinds of people participating, and everybody who participates is not going to be a great freedom fighter. If you start a fight on a corner because your freedom has been transgressed, there is going to be somebody who comes up just because there is a crowd of people and picks all the pockets he can.

That doesn’t mean that freedom wasn’t involved in the first fight. That just means that somebody else who was broke or knows how to pick pockets utilized the situation.

But when that happens, and we all stand back and say, “there was nothing going on but some people picking pockets,” that isn’t true. And usually that is not true in a community, no matter how much emphasis is placed upon the looting. Usually there are other things that are important to the people. There are people who loot, just as there are people who do every other kind of thing that they want to do for their own personal satisfaction. …

As long as we had a place and we knew where it was (the man had made it for us), and we were afraid to get out of it, there was no possibility of a riot or a rebellion or whatever you call it.

I point this out to show you that there is some good in what is going on. It must mean that a whole lot of black people no longer believe that they “have a place.” And whether you like the expression that this new feeling takes or not, this change is a fact, and that is good.

I prayed for, lo, these many years that there would come a day when we wouldn’t know our place, and if that’s what is indicated throughout the country, that increasingly black people no longer know their place, then I say that is good.

If not knowing our place leaves us for the moment confused so that we do some things that are not constructive in the sense of planned campaigns for freedom, then that is a part of the struggle, an inevitable part of the struggle. …

In a rebellion or riot, a lot of people are concerned about things other than self. I am not talking about the looters now — those who are trying to steal what they can and get it home for themselves. They are just like the middle-class. I am talking about those who are outraged, whether it is a sensible outrage or an irrational outrage, outraged at the indignities that black people have to live with.

Those people strike out not selfishly but because they identify with a group. They identify with black people, and a policeman doesn’t have to shoot them before they are outraged at police brutality. A policeman doesn’t have to beat them over the head personally before they become involved in a reaction against police brutality. …

            It is a complex thing, this struggle for freedom. It is so easy after we become involved in a struggle to say, “Well, we have gone far enough now, let’s cool it. I got some of the things I wanted. I got my job, I have been promoted, I got a poverty program job now. Let’s call it all off now.”

But essentially what we were trying to get from the very beginning wasn’t something for you. It was equality for all of us. And when we once started it about 13 years ago, there wasn’t any calling it off.

Now you have been talking all this time about “I want freedom, I would give anything for freedom, I am tired of whitey, I am tired of him being on my back, I want to run my own community.” You have been saying it, but it is harder to say it now because they have fought on 12th Street and it may be on your street soon. It is not over by any means. …

We were all for the people in Newark [during the uprising in mid-July 1967] because we said they were striking a blow for freedom. We said, “Isn’t it wonderful, what they are doing?” And this Sunday some of you say, “Are those Niggers crazy? There they go, just acting a fool, up and down 12th Street, robbing and stealing.”

That’s right. Plenty of them are acting a fool up and down 12th Street. And soon they are going to be acting a fool up and down Linwood Street. They are going to be acting a fool all across town, up and down Dexter, up and down Joy Road.

But that is a part of what you started. You didn’t think you were going to have a rebellion, a freedom struggle, and nobody was going to get hurt, did you? Did you think it was going to go on everywhere else, and they were coming to Detroit in the end and say, “You all are black, too. We are going to give you the things that these other people were fighting and dying for. We are going to give it to you because you all were so good.” It doesn’t happen like that. When it started, it started for everybody.

Some of the people who holler so much about violence had a part in starting it. [NAACP executive secretary] Roy Wilkins doesn’t want to be reminded of it now, but when they started taking these cases to the Supreme Court, when the NAACP won the case to outlaw segregation in schools throughout the South, that was one of the first gunshots of the rebellion.

And Wilkins can say now that he doesn’t like what is happening, but he had a big part in starting it because at that time we didn’t know what we were. We didn’t know what the possibilities were in human life. We didn’t know what we could do. When the Supreme Court said [in its school desegregation decision on May 17, 1954] you have to give equal education, we said if we have to have equal education, there are a whole lot of other things we have to have too.

Martin Luther King said he didn’t believe in a whole lot of things which are now going on. But when he had the bus boycott in Montgomery [from Dec. 5, 1955-Dec. 20, 1956], that was the second shot. When black people started marching in Montgomery and white folks couldn’t stop them, black people all over the country said, “Look here, the man hasn’t got as much strength as we thought he had.” That was the beginning of our changed conception of ourselves, and a changed evaluation of the white man.

Then some people said, “We are not going to ride in the back of the bus anymore.” So we had the Freedom Riders [beginning in May 1961]. The whites burned up busses, they turned them over, they whipped black men and women over the head, but the Freedom Riders didn’t stop. Another shot. The rebellion is going on, people’s ideas are changing. …

A few years ago a black man stepped off the sidewalk in one of those Southern towns if a white man looked like that was what he wanted him to do. When you come from the stage where you step off the sidewalk to the point where you are ready to let police dogs and everybody else try to stop you but you keep on, you have come a long way in your mind. …

Even in Detroit, provincial and backward as we are, we have been thinking differently the last few years. … You remember the Freedom March in Detroit when more than 300,000 black people marched down Woodward Avenue [on June 23, 1963]? What happened at Cobo Hall when we got there is something else.

But we marched in protest, 300,000 of us. Even then, we were in the process of changing. Our thinking was changing. When you start this process, when you start black people deciding that they are going to be equal; that they are going to change conditions; that the white man is not going to keep them in bondage and slavery and oppression; that if be does, he is going to have to do it with force and naked power, then a whole new world is being born. That is what we are in the midst of now.

When Stokely Carmichael [chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] screams “Black Power,” he is only putting into a phrase the change which has been going on for almost fifteen years. Things had reached the point where the change could be put into a phrase. And so Stokely said “Black Power,” and everybody screamed “Black Power,” and the white man said — “uh-uh.”

Then the white man began to ask, “What is Black Power, what do you mean? What is the philosophy of Black Power?” But the white man knew that some big and basic change had already taken place, or Stokely Carmichael could not have cried “Black Power” and gotten a Black Power response.

This is the kind of thing that we are in the midst of everywhere in these United States. You look at the paper now and you wonder at the places that rebellions or riots are breaking out. Little communities that don’t have enough black people for you to feel comfortable in are fighting — 3,000 in a community of 80,000, and they are tearing up the town.

But those 3,000 have been systematically mistreated and oppressed, and when they get ready to strike back, they don’t always care whether they win or whether they lose. This we have got to understand.

Most of you are rational. You are for freedom, for justice, for equality. You make rational decisions, you are going to fight in a rational kind of way, you realize that there are certain things you can do.

But you know this freedom thing is exploding in people’s heads. And everybody is not going to be rational about it. When someone decides, “They have been mistreating my momma and my grandmamma, they have been mistreating all of us, and I don’t like it,” they are not all going to be rational about it. …

Everything that happens in a rebellion is not sensible. …  You try to give at every step a sensible alternative to violence, as we do here at the Shrine of the Black Madonna. We believe in political action. Now a lot of black people say, “I don’t care about political action, that is just the white man’s bag.” Well, that is what they think.

We have got to try political action because that is an alternative to violence. We have got to use picket lines, boycotts, all the things that offer the possibility of power without the necessity of violence. We try to do those things. That doesn’t mean that at the same time we look with disdain on these other people who are fighting in this country for the same cause that we are fighting for.

We have got to understand that it takes all kinds of people to fight a rebellion, and a lot of them are not going to be doing it the way you are doing it at any single moment. And a whole lot of people are not going to agree with the way you are doing it, either.

It won’t be too long before they will be calling you “Uncle Tom,” because unless you throw a brick you are an Uncle Tom. That would be a logical development, wouldn’t it? But you understand why people do what they do.

Because essentially we are trying to get free and we want justice and we are no longer talking about love and all those other things that cluttered up people’s minds for so long. We want justice and we are going to fight for it. But there are a lot of ways to fight. Because we fight one way, let’s not join in some universal denunciation of people fighting in some other kind of way.

The rebellion goes on. There is no halfway revolution. When it starts, it is going to go to its logical conclusion. Either we get free or we end up in concentration camps. You can understand that. There is no turning back, no stopping. You may wish you hadn’t started, but you did. It is going on and there is no way you can stop it. You can try to utilize reason, you can channel power, but you can’t stop it. …

            For years now we have been engaged in a process of trying to break the black man’s identification with the white man, so that a black man says, “I’m a black man and I am not ashamed of it. I am a black man and I don’t feel I have to go along with anything the white man says.” …

The times determine our heroes. Recall, again, in the Book of Judges, how Samson was considered one of the judges of Israel because he lived at a time when they needed that kind of person, fearless, strong, with a deep hatred for the enemy. And how Samson fought. And remember the end of the Scripture lesson this morning.

Sometimes you wonder, “What are they trying to do, what do they hope to accomplish?” Remember when Samson was in the Temple and the Philistines were all around, making fun of him, robbing him of his dignity. They brought him out because be symbolized the enemy whom they had fought against, the enemy who had humiliated them so many times. …

And a little boy brought Samson out and put him in between these two big pillars that held up the Temple. His hair had begun to grow back because he had been down in the dungeon so long, and with it his strength returned. He asked the little boy to put his hands on the two pillars because he couldn’t even see. They had blinded him. And the little boy put his hands on the pillars so Samson could support himself. And when Samson got his hands on the pillars, he knew what he was going to do.

You may not like it, you may not agree with it, but Samson spoke right out to God about it. “Let me die with the Philistines. Oh God, that I may be avenged upon the Philistines for one of my eyes.” You have to understand that indignation, anger, hatred, all of them stemming from systematic oppression, can develop to the point where an individual says, “I am willing to die if I can take a whole bunch of them with me.”

That is what Samson said. I am not quoting from anybody in Detroit or Newark. That is the Bible. “‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ Then he bowed with all his might and the house fell upon the Temple and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead he slew at his death were more than those he had slain during his life.”

This you are going to have to understand because this is a part of the rebellion. There are people like this in Detroit, Newark, Birmingham, California, New York, Chicago who are willing to destroy even themselves if they can express antagonism, if they can strike out against oppression. So to the Hebrew people, the Jews, Samson is a great hero.

Who knows but that a hundred years from today we may remember as heroes some of these very individuals we call hoodlums today, who are striking out for freedom? We don’t know. But they fight for freedom in their way and we in ours, confident that God will see that freedom comes. …

(Source:   Albert B. Cleage, Jr. The Black Messiah [Kansas City, Kan.:   Sheed Andrews and McNeel-Universal Press Syndicate, 1968], pp. 122-28)

Edited by Paul Lee

Other posts relating to the Detroit Riot/Rebellion

Rebellions Create Strange Leaders Sermon from the Sunday after this one, June 30, 1967 and historical context provided by historian Paul Lee

Link to the journal I kept during the riot -> Detroit Rebellion Journal – 1967

The Fabulous Cleages

This Sunday afternoon, I came across this article on the fb page of one of my cousins. Article and transcription below.

April 12, 1952 The Michigan Chronicle – “America’s Fastest Growing Weekly”

The Cleages An Introduction to one of Detroit’s most Versatile and Accomplished Families

A bright-eyed little lad of eight crossed 12th street just below Edison and walked down to the St. Mark’s Community Church near Atkinson. He opened the door,  entered and was directed to the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who sat on a table in the basement watching a troop of Brownie girl scouts busily making puppets.

“Can I help you?” the Rev. Mr. Cleage asked the little boy.

The boy nodded. He was trying to locate his cub scout group. He gave the Rev. Mr. Cleage the troop number and the minister located the troop meeting place through a church bulletin. He gave the boy directions, and the boy went away.

The incident was typical of the attitude of the people of that community toward each other and the St. Mark’s Church in general, and toward the Rev. Mr. Cleage in particular

In less than a year, the boyish-looking pastor of the church has succeeded in making the church not only a spiritual stronghold but a center of community interest and service as well.

Practical institutions like a day nursery, with a paid worker, where all members of the community can bring their children are integral parts of the total church program.

Youth activities, including sports, socials and dramatics, are not merely encouraged – they are directed and supervised by adults in the church.

The Rev. Mr. Cleage believes that the church should serve the community as a whole and not simply the adults. He also believes –in his own words – “That the church cannot have much influence on the congregation if it merely serves as a meeting place for services on Sunday morning.”

This intelligent approach toward religion, which draws into it all the normal aspects of living, characterizes the Rev. Mr. Cleage. It is an attitude which does not spring solely from his theological training but which has its roots deep in his family background.

For the Cleage family is one of Detroit’s most versatile and accomplished families.

The Cleage family is headed by Dr. Albert B. Cleage, Sr., veteran physician who has practiced medicine on the city’s west side since 1913, and by his wife, Pearl.

A graduate of Knoxville college and of the University of Indiana medical school, Dr. Cleage instilled in his four sons and three daughters an appreciation for education, sound principles and respect for human dignity.

All seven of the younger Cleages attended Wayne University. The Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the oldest son, went on to graduate from the Oberlin (Ohio) Graduate School of Theology and to work on his doctorate in Visual Education at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

The second son, Dr. Louis J. Cleage, gradated from the Wayne University medical school. After interning at the Homer Phillips hospital in St. Louis, Dr. Cleage returned to Detroit to practice medicine with his father.

Henry W. Cleage, the third son, graduated from the Wayne university college of law and is a member of the legal firm of Cleage ad League in Detroit.

The youngest son Hugh, who studied agriculture at Wayne and at Michigan state college, is presently a clerk in the Detroit Post Office.

Two of the three Cleage daughters are now married and live in other parts of the county. Mrs. Barbara (Cleage) Martin lives in Newburg, N.Y. and Mrs. Gladys (Cleage) Evans, a former Detroit schoolmarm resides at the Veterans hospital at Tuskegee, Ala., where her husband is a physician.

Anna, the youngest of the Cleages, will graduate from the Detroit, will graduate from the Detroit Institute of Technology’s school of pharmacy in June. She has already received her bachelor of arts degree from Wayne university.

During the war years, capitalizing on Hugh’s training and Henry’s zeal, the two Cleage’s bought a 100-acre farm at Capac, Mich., and proceeded to raise chickens and operate a dairy. They maintained an average of 1,000 broilers plus 500 laying hens, and a herd of 15 milk cows.

Though successful, the venture proved just a bit strenuous for the two, so they sold the farm and returned home. Henry went back to his law books and Hugh became a postal employee.

The Cleage family is a closely-knit unit, the kind of family which is held up as an example of the typical American family. It is a disciplined unit, with the wisdom of age and experience meeting the enthusiasm of youth, and the two being molded into a liberal philosophy of life.

From this family background, the Detroit community has profited. For, aside from the fact that such a well-balanced group is a community asset in itself, the family produced the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who is demonstrating through his leadership of the St. Marks congregation the virtues of his family training. – by Fuller

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Other stories about this time and St. Marks

“A” is for Atkinson

Alpha Dance 1952

Then and Now St. Marks

A Sunday Morning in 1953 Merges With a Day in 2011

A Church and Two Brothers – Two Splits

Nine Years of Blogging

Happy 9th Blogaversary to me!

Nine years ago I started this blog, Finding Eliza to tell the story of my family and my search for their stories. I had no idea how much I would learn, nor the connections I would be able to make.

Letters written by my grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage from 1903-1905

This past year has been a very productive one for me and the blog. I discovered that over forty of my paternal grandmother, Pearl Reed Cleage’s letters written from 1903 – 1905 were for sale online. By the time I tracked them down, they were in the Special Collections of the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. I was able to purchase copies of them for a reasonable price and blogged all of them with additional contextualizing materials. A list of those posts is at this link Pearl Reed’s Letters.

Historical Society Long Beach Cemetery Tour 2018 – Zadie Cannon as Amanda Cleage
Photo by Kayte Deioma

I worked with Roxanne Patmore of the Historical Society of Long Beach to find information that would help to tell the story of Amanda Cleage, from the Cleage plantation in Athens, Tennessee. After exchanging information, we finally decided to order Amanda’s and her husband Abram’s Civil War Pension file. There was so much information, so many answers to questions our questions.

It was amazing and led me to order the pension files of all the Cleages who served with the United States Colored Troops. So far I have blogged one of the files completely, that of Katie Cleage and her fight to get her pension. Because it was a contentious case with many people testifying and Katie answering, it gave me a real picture of life on Alexander Cleage’s plantation. Katie Cleage Civil War Pension File. I will be blogging more of those pension files this year.

The paper that caught my attention

While checking through the pension files of other members of the same regiment of the United States Colored Troops that the Cleages were in, I noticed my great grandmother Celia Rice Cleage Sherman’s 2nd husband’s name – W.R. Sherman. Looking more closely, I discovered that this was the file of my great grandmother’s mother’s widow’s pension file. Her name was Susan Rice Ragan and I had not known her name before. By finding her, I found the names of her other children and parts of their stories. I blogged some of these findings in this years A-Z Challenge and I plan to share more during the coming year.

I also published several posts about my grandmother’s brother, George Reed, sharing his Will. probate records and letters relating to the case which showed the strained relationships between various family members.

There are so many connections and so many stories waiting to be found and shared that I don’t even suspect today! Here is a link to my very first blog post 9 years ago. Who Was Eliza?

I claim my Indian blood…

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David Gallimore was the second husband of Sally Ragan Hale the 4th child of my great great grandmother Laura Rice Ragan. Today’s testimony comes from his application to be recognized as a member of the Eastern Cherokee.

In 1906, the U.S. Court of Claims appointed Guion Miller from the Interior Department to determine who was eligible for funds under the treaties of 1835-36 and 1845 between the United States and the Eastern Cherokee.

Document found on Ancestry dot com

No. 1013

David Gallimore, being first duly sworn and examined, deposes and says:

My name is David Gallimore:  I was born in Roan Co., Tenn. 1838; I am seventy years old; I claim my Indian blood through my father, James Gallimore; my father was born in N. C. I do not know what county; 1816; my father got his Indian blood through his father; my grandfather’s name through whom I claim was James Gallimore; I think my grandfather, James Gallimore, was born in N. C.: I make no claim of Indian blood through my mother: I was about ten years old when my grandfather died; I am related to James Gallimore: James Gallimore is my third cousin: the grandfather of James Gallimore, David Gallimore, was a brother of my grandfather, James Gallimore: I have been married twice: the maiden name of my first wife was Mariah Baker; the maiden name of my second wife was Sally Hale; none of the ancestors through whom I claim were ever held as slaves; neither I nor any of the ancestors through whom I claim were ever enrolled and never received any money, land or other benefits; my grandfather and father told me that they lived with the Cherokee Indians as a member of the tribe in N. C. and came with them when they came to Tenn.; I never heard of my father and grandfather ever having as Indian name; none of my relatives ever went West with the Indians; in 1851 I lived in Roane Co., Tenn.

David (his mark X) Gallimore

SUBSCRIBED AND sworn to before me, at Harriman, Tenn., this 25th day of June, 1908.

Signed

Assistant to special Commissioner Of the court of claim.

George Hays, being first duly sworn and examined, deposes and says;

My name is George Hays: I knew the father of David Gallimore; his name was James Gallimore; I first became acquainted with him about 1846; I knew the grandfather of James Gallimore or his father in N. C.; I became acquainted in with him in Roane Co., Tenn. The father of David Gallimore told me that he had lived with the Cherokee Indiana as a member of the tribe in Cherokee Co., N.C.; he told me that he ought to have gone to the West with them: he told me they got a white man to be his guardian; the name of his was A. L. Green; he was never a slave; he looked to me to be a full blooded Cherokee Indian.

George (his mark x) Hays
SUBSCRIBED and sworn to before me at Harriman Tenn,. This 25th day of June, 1908.

FAB

David Gallimore, Rockwood, Tenn
Rejected. Ancestors not enrolled, were not living in the Cherokee domain in 1833-6 and 1846 and does not show genuine connection with the Cherokee tribe.