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.
Thursday February 4, 1943 Albert B. Cleage ordained at Plymouth Congregational Church, Detroit, Michigan, by Rev. Horace White.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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:
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).
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. …
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
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.
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.
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. …
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.
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.
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. …
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.” …
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
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
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
My father, Albert B. Cleage Jr aka Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman would have been 107 today if he had not made his transition in 2000. I am re-posting a collage with 100 photographs of him that I did on 2011 today.
Here are links to some of the posts I’ve done about him:
The Fellowship Dinner – One of my favorites, a letter home in which he describes the first church supper after he became Pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield Mass. in 1945.
The only things I knew about my parent’s wedding was that my mother wore blue and they were married at Plymouth Congregational Church. My parents separated when I was eight years old and apparently the clippings that my grandmother’s must have saved, disappeared.
When I found an archive for the Detroit Tribune Newspaper, published by my publishing poet cousin James McCall, I was hopeful that I would find an article that described the wedding. And I did! Unfortunately the article is so faded as to be all most blank. To say this was frustrating, is an understatement. The archive is housed at the Library of Congress – Chronicling America. Maybe one day Newspapers.com will add The Detroit Tribune to their collection and find better copies.
Here are the pieces I found. The first one, about a before the wedding event.
“Doris Graham is being feted, because Wednesday evening she will say “I do” to Todd Cleage, after which they will go to Lexington, KY. The local chapter of Iota Boule fraternity honored Doris Graham and Todd Cleage Friday night at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Gamble on Willis street. Among those who came with heart loads of good wishes were: Mr. and Mrs. Henderson, Dr. and Mrs. James Moore, Mr. and Mrs. M. Graham, Atty. and Mrs. P. Piper, Dr. Lloyd Bailer, Mr. and Mrs. H.S. Dunbar and their petite daughter Margie, Dr. and Mrs. Peyton Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Winburn and Dr. and Mrs J.A. Moore and others.”
Bringing this back from 2011.The Illustrated News was published during the earlier 1960s by my father’s family and family friends. Two of his brothers, Henry and Hugh, started a printing business because the family was always looking for ways to be economically independent. The main business was printing handbills for small grocery stores. And they started several newspapers. First they did The Metro but the one I remember best is The Illustrated News. It was printed on pink paper (that was what was left over after printing the handbills) and distributed to churches and barber shops around the inner city. Some people had subscriptions. My father wrote many of the lead articles. My Uncle Louis wrote Smoke Rings, which was always on the back page. Billy Smith took most of the photographs.
This issue is from June 24, 1963. The focus is the Walk To Freedom which took place in support of the people in the south who were fighting for equality. I was a high school junior at the time and I remember the crowds and crowds of people downtown for the march. It was very well organized and as the main march went up Woodward, to Cobo Hall, the side streets, filled with people who joined as the march went by. Estimates of the number went from 100,000 to 200,000. It was an amazing feeling to be in a peaceful crowd, most dressed in their Sunday best, marching for FREEDOM NOW! At the end of the newsletter there are several photographs from the day of the march.
My father is behind the first row, third and a half from the right.
My maternal grandfather (poppy), Mershell C. Graham, has his finger by his nose, my uncle Hugh Cleage, smiling with the glasses next to him and my paternal grandmother, Pearl Reed Cleage, smiling with the hat on. Older people who couldn’t walk all the way in the huge crowd went in earlier and got good seats. I don’t remember where I was sitting.
My father giving them hell about conditions in Detroit in 1963. They finally unplugged his mike to shut him up.
Below is a link to a video by Paul Lee about the “Walk to Freedom”.
My father, then known as Rev. Albert B. Cleage jr preaching. This is rather a long sermon, about 45 minutes. He talks about growing up in the black church in Detroit with no use for religion until attending Plymouth Congregational Church and hearing Rev. White preach. He mentions attending Oberlin Seminary and finishes up by sharing a bit from an article by Dr. Harding in a religious magazine. This was just at the start of 1967. What a year was to come. Click on the documents below to enlarge.
The Illustrated News was a weekly newsletter put out by my family and some of their friends in Detroit from 1961 to 1964. This issue dealt with the violence in Birmingham, Alabama during 1963 when the violence continued, uninterrupted. I was a sophomore at Northwestern High School in the spring of 1963. This is my offering after watching Episode 5 of Many Rivers to Cross. For links to other bloggers writing their response to this series, as well as the other posts I’ve written for earlier episodes, click this link – Many Rivers To Cross – Responses. To enlarge the pages for easier reading, please click on them.
Looking at this photograph, I wondered about the lives of the children in the boat. Here are their lives in a paragraph.
Evelyn Douglas, seated on the left in the first row, was born in 1910 in Detroit. She was the only child of Dr. Edward and Louise Douglas. Her father was a dentist. Her mother was a dressmaker before Evelyn was born. Evelyn graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a graduate degree in education. She married Charles E. Beatty, Sr., a pioneering educator, in 1935. He was the first black principal of Perry Elementary School in Ypsilanti, MI which later housed HighScope Perry Preschool program. She taught for 30 years in the Detroit Public Schools. Evelyn was the mother of three children. She died at age 93 in 2003 in Detroit.
Cornelius Langston Henderson, who sits in the middle of the first row, was born in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. He was an only child and grew up several blocks from the Cleages on Detroit’s Old West Side. Cornelius was named after his father, Cornelius L Henderson Sr., also born in Detroit. Like his father, Cornelius Jr became an engineer. His mother, Gertrude, born in Virginia and taught in the Washington DC public schools before she married. The younger Cornelius graduated from Howard University in Washington DC with a degree in civil engineering. He later took postgraduate classes at the University of Michigan. He worked for the City of Detroit as a civil engineer for over 30 years, where he helped design sewer systems. He was married and raised two sons and a stepdaughter. He died in November of 1993 in Detroit and is buried in Detroit Memorial Park.
Albert B Cleage, Jr, my father, seated on the right end of the first row, was the oldest of the seven children of Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr and Pearl Reed Cleage. He grew up to be a black nationalist minister and organizer around political and civil rights issues. He founded Central Congregational Church which became Central United Church of Christ and finally the Shrine of the Black Madonna. He had two daughter, my sister and me. He died in 2000.
Directly behind my father is his first cousin Helen Mullins. Born in 1899 in Indianapolis, Indiana, she was the oldest of the 12 children of James and Minnie (who was my grandmother Pearl Cleage’s sister) Mullins. James Mullins held various jobs through the years, including that of fireman, carpenter and laborer. Helen completed highschool. She married Otto Mitchell. They raised four children. In the 1940 census Helen was a telegraph operator for Western Union while Otto worked on the assemble line of an automobile factory in Detroit. They owned their own home. Helen died in 1982.
Helen is holding Barbara Cleage, my aunt. Barbara was the 5th child and first daughter of Dr. Albert and Pearl Cleage. She completed a year at Wayne State. She married Ernest Martin and had one son. Unfortunately the marriage didn’t work out and she returned to Detroit. Barbara worked as a receptionist in her father’s doctor’s office, at Cleage Printers doing layout and finally her true talent came to the fore and she organized and managed the bookstores and cultural centers for the Shrine of the Black Madonna. She was amazing at it. Barbara is 96 and lives in South Carolina.
Next, in the back row middle, we have my uncle Louis Cleage. Born in 1913 he was the 2nd of the seven children. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a medical doctor, sharing an office with him for some years. Besides having a medical practice on Lovett Ave. in Detroit for many years, he was active in the Movement. He wrote Smoke Rings for the Illustrated News and ran for office on the Freedom Now Party ticket in 1964. He maintained a cottage in Idlewild where the family spent many happy summers. Louis died in 1994.
Last we have a partial, ghostly image of my uncle Henry Cleage. He was the third child born in 1915. He graduated from Wayne State in Detroit and became a lawyer. During WW2 he and his brother Hugh farmed as a conscientious objectors. (Where was Hugh when this picture was taken? Click to read) Henry later left the law and started Cleage Printers where he and Hugh printed far into the night putting out flyers for grocery stores, books of poetry and radical newsletters. He ran for Prosecuting Attorney on the Freedom Now ticket in 1964. After the 1967 Detroit riot, Henry returned to the law and worked for Neighborhood Legal Services until he retired to Idlewild, MI where he fine tuned his Status Theory. He died in 1996.
The photograph in the boat was taken the day of this picnic, summer of 1919.
I used news articles, census and other records from ancestry.com to fill in the lives of Evelyn Douglas and Cornelius L. Henderson, who are not related to me.
Three generations of my Cleages. Front left is Henry, with Louis behind him, center is my father, Albert B. front right is Hugh. Behind Hugh is my great grandmother Celia Rice Cleage Sherman. Back left is my grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage holding baby Barbara Cleage Martin. This photograph was taken about 1921 somewhere around Detroit, Michigan, perhaps on Belle Isle. My grandfather took the photo. There is another from the same day with him in the photo taken by my grandmother.
This shot was taken in our living room in the parsonage of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass. I just noticed the reflection of my father taking the picture last night. I looked everywhere for that teapot in later years but it was lost in one of the various moves. It was blue with a gold design over it. The couch was with us for many years. Eventually the cushions were covered in reddish leather, or something like it. I remember that table, which was also around for a long time. And those little plastic records my sister and I used to play on our little phonograph.
Bringing this back from August 2011 for this weeks Sepia Saturday prompt showing a mirror and the reflection of the photographer. If only I had a rose behind my ear like Billie Holiday.