In the summer of 1928 my grandmother Fannie, identified as “Mother” in the photograph above, was pregnant with her 4th child, Howard. He was born on September 6 and lived only 3 years before dying of Scarlet Fever. Older son, Mershell had died the year before after being struck by a truck on the way to school. But in this picture, she’s looking forward to the new child they believed had been sent to take his place. My mother Doris isn’t smiling but is giving the dog a pat.
To learn more about the members of the Graham family pictured, follow these links:
My uncle Hugh Cleage standing by the sound car he rigged up for the 1962 Congressional election in Detroit. My Aunt Gladys, my sister and I spent hours in that car riding through our community. “Make your children proud. Vote for Frederick Yates, a Negro in the 15th District…” One of us would ride in the car reciting as Gladys drove down the street while the other would leaflet the houses. My sister and I were both in high school. I would turn 15 in August 1962. My cousin Jan sometimes rode with us but she was too young to man the mic.
Below are 4 pages from 2 issues of the Illustrated News put out before the election. Click to enlarge. Diggs was re-elected but none of our other candidates won.
From Left to right My grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, peeking over my greatgrandmother’s, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner’s, shoulder. My grandmother’s sister Daisy Turner. Behind and between Aunt Daisy and Aunt Alice Turner, is my aunt Mary Virginia Graham Elkins, although she was not yet an Elkins. At the end, behind Alice, is my mother, Doris Graham Cleage, although she was not yet married a Cleage either.
They are posed in Grandmother Turner’s backyard on the East Side of Detroit at 4536 Harding. The house is gone now. They look like they just came from Church, at Plymouth Congregational, however the photo is dated July 4, 1939 on the back. July 4 was on a Tuesday that year. Maybe they went on a church picnic. My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham took the picture.
October is Home Coming Month for the church I grew up in. At the time of this banquet on October 9, 1966, the church was known as Central United Church of Christ. Later it became the Shrine of the Black Madonna. Looking over the room, I can’t find myself. I was a junior at Wayne State University and lived at home so I don’t know why I wasn’t there. Maybe I just made myself scarce during picture making. Or maybe I had a lot of homework due the following Monday and pleaded out. I don’t remember ever helping serve or dish up the food. Now that I think of it though, I don’t see my cousin Jan either. Where were we? My sister Pearl was a freshman at Howard in DC so that explains her absence. But enough rambling.
The Banquet is taking place in the Fellowship Hall immediately after the morning service. Services started at 11:30AM. My father preached for about an hour so 1 really would be right after the service. The sermon that week was a part of a Series that extended over several weeks. Women are circulating around bringing plates to the table. Unfortunately there is no clock showing in these photos, so we don’t know what time it was.
By banquet time the next year, after the 1967 Detroit Riot, there would be afro hair styles here and there. This year there are quite a few hats, everybody still in their Sunday best, eating and waiting. There are real plates and glasses and silverware being used. I wonder if there was a dishwasher in the kitchen or if after waiting table the women washed all those dishes by hand.
And from that day’s service “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” sung by Mahilia Jackson. Of course she didn’t sing at our service but this is the same version we used.
Police brutality was a problem in 1963, as it is today. Today I am sharing an issue of the Illustrated News that covered a demonstration held in front of the Detroit police station, then at 1300 Beaubien. The protest was against the killing of Cynthia Scott, an unarmed woman. She was shot in the back. The demonstration was peaceful and there was no interference by the police. The article says there were 2,500 people at the protest. Also “We wonder if a grand jury investigation might not clear the air and throw some light upon the police brutality practiced on Negroes and why such shootings never come to trial.” And that is something people are still wondering today. There was no investigation and the officer was not charged. Click on all pages to enlarge enough to read them.
More about Dunbar Hospital which was recently saved from being sold at auction when the it was decided to let the owners pay all back taxes, fines and water bill. The article seems to be based on an interview with my aunt, Barbara Cleage Martin/Cardinal Nandi.
The sign on front lawn reads:
Dunbar Hospital: Michigan Historic Site.
At the time of World War I, health care for black Detroiters was inferior to that available for whites. Black physicians could not join the staffs of Detroit’s white hospitals. On May 20, 1918, thirty black doctors, members of the Allied Medical Society (now the Detroit Medical Society) incorporated Dunbar Hospital, the city’s first non-profit community hospital for the black population. It also housed the first black nursing school in Detroit. Located in a reform-minded neighborhood, this area was the center of a social and cultural emergence of the black residents of the city during the 1920s. In 1928 Dunbar moved to a larger facility and was later renamed Parkside, operating under that name until 1962. In 1978 the Detroit Medical Society, an affiliate of the National Medical Association, purchased the site for their administrative headquarters and a museum.
I am standing in front of my tent made of a quilt attached to the former chicken house, at that point storage shed, in Nanny and Poppy’s (my Graham grandparents) backyard. It was a June Saturday in 1958. I was 11 and would turn 12 in August. My cousin Barbara had her own quilt tent built over the wooden slide.
In the header we are eating lunch in the yard the same day. Sitting at the table from L to R is my aunt Mary V., my grandmother, my greatgreat aunt Abbie, my grandfather at the head of the table (of course) me, cousin Dee Dee and cousin Marilyn on the end. My mother probably took the picture.
More posts about my grandparent’s house on Theodore.
I saved this article from the Detroit Free Press years ago during the 1980s, because my grandfather, Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr was one of the founding doctors of Dunbar Hospital and the article featured my aunt and cousins. By August 2014, Dunbar was being auctioned for unpaid taxes, after being closed up for years. I should have written the date on it. Click each article to enlarge so that you can read.
During the 1950s, my father’s Central Congregational Church had a very active youth program. In 1955, when these photographs of the modern dance group were taken, the church was meeting at Crossman School and all activities were taking place in the parsonage at 2254 Chicago Blvd. As always, click on images to enlarge.
BLACK POWER POTENTIAL: Black Power advocate Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture, right at mic) endorsing the political candidacies of law student Kenneth V. Cockrel, Sr. (left of Carmichael) and Shrine of the Black Madonna founder Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr. (later Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, fourth from left, hands in pockets), Jeffries Projects, Detroit, July 30, 1966. PHIL WEBB PHOTO/THE DETROIT NEWS. (See link to article this photo accompanied at the end of this post.)
Below is a newsletter from the Cleage for Congress campaign.
Unfortunately neither my father or Ken Cockrel won. I remember passing out campaign literature at Jefferies Projects all day with Jim, now my husband, and attending Ken Cockrel’s “Victory Party ” that night in a flat on Wayne State University’s campus. I just remember it as being almost devoid of furniture and dusty. Jim and General Baker gave me a ride home after midnight where I found that my father, who was supposed to tell my mother that I was going to the party and would be late, got involved in his own after election activities and forgot. Talk about talking fast. I was 20 years old.
To bring history back to the present, read The Roots and Responsibility of Black Power – a reprint in The Michigan Citizen of remarks by historian Paul Lee made at the Detroit City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. He wasaddressing the takeover of the government of the majority-Black city of Detroit by Michigan’s Republican governor. He appealed to their sense of history, to the struggle that Detroiters had gone through in the past to gain political power. The Council voted to turn the city over to a manager appointed by the governor.