I came across this photograph of my grandparents looking relaxed and happy the other day and it made me smile. It was in the black album of tiny photographs and I date it to be from the late 1930s when they lived on Scotten in Detroit.
I first shared these photographs 5 years ago. Time to bring it back.
For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee. Most are not related to me by blood, although our families came off of the same plantations – those of Samuel, Alexander and David Cleage. Click on any image to enlarge.
This post is about my relationship to the Cleages of Athens, Tennessee. Kristin Cleage (that is me) was born free in Springfield, Mass. in 1946. My only sister was born when I was 2. My family moved back to Detroit when I was four. I finished high school and graduated with a degree in fine arts from Wayne State University. I worked as a pre-school teacher, a doll maker and a librarian. Eventually I married James Williams, who had an Associates Degree and worked as an organizer and an inspector of asphalt for the Michigan Dept of Transportation. We had six children. All of our children attended college, lived to be adults and most now have children of their own. At various times we have shared our home with children and grandchildren, and other relatives. We owned a variety of homes over the years, some with and some free from mortage. We often lived around extended family. I was the third generation of my Cleages born out of slavery.
My father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr (aka Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) was born free in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1911 to parents born in Tennessee and Kentucky. His family moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan and eventually Detroit. He had six siblings. All of them lived to be at least eighty years old. He attended public schools in Detroit and graduated with a BA from Wayne State University, followed by a Divinity Degree at Oberlin College and doing post degree work in film at the University of Southern California. He married my mother, Doris Graham and they had two daughters. Both daughters lived to be adults, graduated from college and had seven children between them. My father pastored churches in Lexington, KY; San Francisco, CA; Springfield, MA and Detroit, MI. He was active in politics and with friends and family, published newsletter, advocated self determination and black power for black people. He founded the Shrines of the Black Madonna with churches in Detroit, Atlanta and Houston. He died at the age of 88 in 2000 in South Carolina. He was the second generation born out of slavery.
My grandfather, Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr, was born free in Hackberry, Loudon County, TN in 1883. He was the youngest of 5 children born to Lewis Cleage and Celia Rice. Eventually the family moved back to Athens, TN and his parents were divorced. He and his siblings all graduated from high school. Several attended college. My grandfather graduated from Knoxville College in Knoxville, TN and the University of Indiana medical school, Indianapolis, IN. He married my grandmother, Pearl Reed and they had seven children who all lived to age 80 or beyond. After completing his internship, the family moved to Kalamazoo, MI. There he set up his medical practice. After several years they moved to Detroit, Michigan where he opened Cleage Clinic and practiced medicine. Three of his siblings and his mother eventually moved to Detroit. One brother remained in Athens. My grandfather regularly traveled back to visit. During his life, my grandfather helped found three churches and two black hospitals. This was in the days when black doctors could not practice in most white hospitals. In the 1950s my grandfather retired and in 1957 he died in Detroit. He was the first generation born out of slavery.
My greatgrandfather Lewis Cleage was born into slavery on Alexander Cleage’s plantation in McMinn County, about 1852. He was fourteen when freedom came with the end of the Civil War. He married Celia Rice in 1872 in Athens, TN and they had five children. They all lived to adulthood and attended high school and/or college. He worked as a farmer, in the steel mills, on the railroad and did other hard labor all of his life. He never learned to read or write. He died in 1918 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lived free for 52 of his 66 years.
My 2X great grandfather Frank Cleage was born into slavery about 1816 in North Carolina. I do not know how he came to be on Samuel Cleage’s plantation, but he was there by 1834 when he was mentioned in the letter to the overseer. My 2X great grandmother Juda Cleage, was born into slavery about 1814. She came to Alexander Cleage’s plantation with his wife, Jemima Hurst. Juda was mentioned in both Elijah Hurst’s and Alexander Cleage’s Wills. Frank and Juda both gained their freedom after the Civil War and were legally married that same year. They had at least eight children. Frank worked as a laborer. I have not found them after the 1870 census. I can only trace 3 of their children so I am unable to give death ages. The three children I have found all did hard physical labor and were unable to read and write, as were Frank and Juda.
You can read more about each person by following the links or putting a name in the search box in the right hand column.
Last night I visited Genealogy Bank. I spent several hours looking for items about any of the Cleages of Athens Tennessee. I was just beginning to think this was a crazy way to spend Friday night when I saw another item mentioning my grandfather, Albert B. Cleage and his brothers on a road trip, stopping at the home of the Cobbs on the way to Athens. I clicked through to read. It was in the Colored Section of The Lexington Herald.
“Dr. A.B. Cleage, Messrs. Jacob, Henry and Richard Cleage, of Detroit, Mich, were guests of Mr and Mrs. J.W. Cobb Tuesday for a short stay. They were en rout to Athens, Tenn., their former home to bury their mother.”
I have spent years looking for a death record for my great grandmother Celia Rice Cleage Sherman without finding any. My aunt Anna Cleage Shreve, who was born in 1923 and remembered that her grandmother had a stroke in their kitchen around 1930. I am thinking that they shipped her body home to Athens, TN on the train while they drove down.
Richmond was a little over 5 hours from Detroit and 3 hours from Athens. It was a good place to stop and get a nights sleep and a good meal during the time when public accommodations were not open to black people.
Now I have to find where she is buried and more about Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Cobb of Richmond, KY.
Since finding this, someone told me the death certificate information was on familysearch. It is, and the reason I haven’t been able to find it is before was that I didn’t know her first name was Anna. I’ve been looking for Celia Rice. The 1930 census is the only other place I have seen her listed as Anna and I thought that was a mistake! I’ve ordered the Death Certificate and now will be waiting on pins and needles, hoping that her parent’s names will be on it and the cemetery where she’s buried will be listed. Can’t wait!
Other posts about my great grandmother.
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.
You can read more about Dunbar Hospital in previous posts at these links A Speech on the Graduation of the first class of nurses, Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit, Part 2,Dunbar Hospital 1922 and 2014. You can read about this building being auctioned in September 2014 here Detroit’s first black hospital hits auction…
And here is an article from The Michigan Citizen about the Dunbar Hospital being saved. Let’s hope something positive is done with it now. Saving the Dunbar.
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.
You can read more about Dunbar Hospital in previous posts at these links A Speech on the Graduation of the first class of nurses, Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit, Part 2, Dunbar Hospital 1922 and 2014. You can read about this building being auctioned in September 2014 here Detroit’s first black hospital hits auction…
And here is an article from The Michigan Citizen about the Dunbar Hospital being saved. Let’s hope something positive is done with it now. Saving the Dunbar.
I received some photographs from my friend Historian Paul Lee recently of Dunbar Hospital in Detroit. My paternal grandfather was one of the physicians and founders back in the 1920s. I combined the photo from July 2014 with a photograph from 1922. You can read more about Dunbar Hospital in previous posts at these links A Speech on the Graduation of the first class of nurses, Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit, Part 2. Click to enlarge the photograph.
I have linked this post to the Family Curator’s World Photography Day post. I participated in 2011 with a post of photographs from Springfield, Then and Now.
When I started looking for signatures, I thought it would be easy because I have many letters through the generations. The problem was that they did not sign letters with both first and last names. Some repeatedly used nicknames. I was able to find most signatures by searching through documents – marriage licenses, social security cards, deeds, bills of sale and group membership cards. I finally found my sister’s signature in the return address on an envelope and if I’d thought of it sooner, might have found others in the same place.
For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I blogged everyday using items taken from the letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother from 1907 to 1912, starting with “A” and moving right through the alphabet to “Z”. I even managed 2 bonus posts on Sundays that were related to the theme. Doing them out of chronological order to meet the necessary letter bothered me until someone pointed out that I would have overlooked some of the words that gave the letters more context, as in H is for Henry Hummons or Q is for Questions.
This year was much easier for me than last year. I think having a theme and material that was already there, did it. It probably helped that I did little else everyday this month besides work on the blog. I managed to visit quite a few new to me blogs and got some new visitors. Now, if I can just use May to put these letters into a print ready form, I will be happy. The header for this post is a picture of just some of the descendents of Albert and Pearl Cleage taken in 2012.
- A is for Albert Buford Cleage – December 7, 1907
- B is for Book – March 8, 1909
- C is for Comet – May 27, 1910
- D is for Detroit – June 20, 1909
- E is for Eastern States – June 26, 1909
- F is for Flower Clock – September 14, 1909
- G is for Graduation – February 10, 1910
- H is for Henry Hummons – August 9, 1909
- I is for I’ll Take a Chance – December 8, 1908
- Extra: 4 Bonus Cards – 7/20/1909, 7/28/1909, 8/21/1909, 9/3/1909
- J is for June – Cadavers Post Card – June 19, 1909
- K is for Kenwood – March 30, 1909
- L is for Lincoln Hospital – March 18, 1910
- M is for Mother – February 21, 1910
- N is for Nineteen Ten Fayette Street – October 18, 1909
- O is for Opportunity and Operation – March 22, 1910
- P is for Pearl – July 21, 1910
- Q is for Questions – May 27, 1910
- R is for Remember – July 15, 1909
- S is for Sight Seeing – June 28, 1909
- T is for Thomas Dixon – January 21, 1910
- U is for Union Station (graduation) – June 21, 1910
- V is for Vaudeville -July 15, 1909
- W is for Wedding – September 2, 1910
- Extra: Home is Where the Heart Is – July 14, 1911
- X is for eXsenator & X-ray (Log cabin) – July 21, 1911
- Y is for Young Albert – July 11, 1911
- Z is for Zoo and Kalamazoo – July 9, 1912
Pearl and Albert with their children and 3 of the grandchildren. My sister and I were at our other grandparents and the youngest 4 were not yet born. Their backyard at 2270 Atkinson, Detroit, MI – 1952.
Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr and son Albert Jr – about 1912. For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging everyday using items taken from the letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother from 1907 to 1912, starting with “A” and moving right through the alphabet to “Z” during April.
My grandfather did go to the Zoo in 1909 when he was traveling between Detroit and Buffalo while working on the Steamer Eastern States.
July 3, 1909 (Enroute to Buffalo, Steamer Eastern States)
My Dear Pearl:
…Yesterday while Lewis and I were walking up the street in Buffalo, whom did we see standing on the corner (as if lost) but Miss Berry of Indianapolis, her brother and his wife and a Miss Stuart an Indianapolis teacher. Well to be sure we were surprised and they too seemed agreeably so. We spent the day with them taking in the zoo and other points of interest. They visited our boat and we showed them through it…
However, it is KalamaZOO that I am more interested in as this is the last letter in the A – Z Challenge and also the last letter my grandfather mailed back to Pearl, now his wife, and little Albert, in Indianapolis as they planned their relocation. My grandfather calls my father “Toddie” in the letter. This is a nickname he kept among family and friends for the rest of his life. This letter is addressed to a house on N. West Street, several blocks from the one on Fayette Street.
My dear Sweetheart
I am awfully tired and lonesome. Have not as yet been able to find a suitable place for either office or residence. I am trying to find a place to suit both purposes but so far have been unable to find either. However by the time the things get here I’ll find some place to put them and just as soon as a find how much I am going to have to pay for rent will send you some money so that if you get the things all ready you can leave any time the first of next week. Hope ere this reaches you are much rested and feeling fine. Please do not worry and fret yourself sick about what some people may say. Take care of yourself and baby and get some man to pack and fix the things for you. I expect to secure a place tomorrow if possible.
Did Mamma and Ed leave Wednesday? Did Richard go with them? Tell Toddie to give you whole lots of bites for daddie. I would give five dollars to hear him say: – “Ite man” tonight
Remember I’ll try to send you some money by Monday. How are the people paying you, I want to see you all awfully bad.
Write often to your Albert.
From Michigan Manual of Freedmen’s Progress. Published in 1915. Page 53.
Albert B. Cleage was born in Loudon County, Tennessee, May 15, 1883. He graduated from the Henderson Normal and Industrial College in 1902, from Knoxville College in 1906, and the Indiana School of Medicine in 1910. He was appointed as intern at the city dispensary at Indianapolis and served there as house physician and ambulance surgeon. He began private practice in Kalamazoo in 1912 as the first African American doctor and practiced and lived at 306 Balch Street.