Jacob Cleage was the second child and first son of the five Cleage offspring of Louis Cleage and Celia Rice Cleage Sherman. He was born in 1874 in either McMinn or Loudin county Tennessee. According to his death certificate he was in the Spanish American War. For years he worked as a waiter in Knoxville, where he met and married Gertrude Brunt. They had no children.
They moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where all of his siblings, except Edward, moved. He continued to work as a waiter and also in real estate. Eventually they all ended up in Detroit, Michigan. He worked in the Sheriff’s department for several years. Continued to sell real estate and, according to his death certificate worked as a janitor.
I found the above clipping in the archives of The Detroit Tribune. I announced his serious illness five days after he died. I could find no mention of his death in the paper. I found his death certificate on Ancestry and the one new piece of information I found was that he served in the military during the Spanish American War.
Seventy years later, the descendants of those earlier Thanksgiving dinners are wildly scattered and number in the hundreds. My family gathered around my table, others gathered in other cities. Here is a write up in the style of a news item.
Three generations gathered at the Thanksgiving table of the Cleage-Williams family Thursday. Although several members were unable to attend, four of the daughters and their children arrived bearing their specialties – collards, mac & cheese, cranberry sauce, bread, salad and more. Along with the turkey and dressing provided by grandmother, Kristin and the broiled salmon cooked by Grandfather James all was served atop an Ecuadorian tablecloth provided by a long time family friend.
There was laughter and lively discussions; songs were sung dramatically, and a game of dominoes was played. The family expects to gather again at Christmas time, hopefully with the missing family members present.
Time passed and ten years after yesterday’s 1939 Thanksgiving dinner, we find that Jennie Turner is in a wheelchair, having broken her hip in a fall. Her sister, Abbie Allen Brown is in town, the Graham’s are there with their daughter Mary Virginia, her husband and two children.
“Three generations were present at the festive board of Mrs. Jennie Turner on Harding ave. A delicious Thanksgiving dinner was served, which Mrs. Turner who has been an invalid for several years, enjoyed in her wheel chair, while surrounded by her daughters, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner, and her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham; granddaughter and son, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins, and their two children, and Mrs. Turner’s sister, Mrs. A. Brown.”
Actually Four generations were present – my great grandmother Jennie Turner and her sister Abbie, her daughters (which included my grandmother), my aunt Mary V and her daughters DD and Barbara. My mother Doris and her family (including me) were in still living in Springfield, Mass, and missed this dinner.
Thanksgiving weekend 1939 was a busy one for my family. On Thursday, Nov 23, there was dinner at Grandmother Jennie Turner’s house on Harding Ave., pictured below. (Click on any image to enlarge.)
“On Harding Avenue, Mrs. Jeannie Turner bade the members of her family to dine with her. At the table were her daughters, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner; Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Graham, and her granddaughters, Misses Mary Virginia and Doris Graham.”
Wikpedia describes that game thus: On November 25, 1939, the Big Ten football teams played five conference games. Michigan 21, Ohio State 14. Michigan defeated Ohio State, 21-14, at Michigan Stadium. Ohio State took a 14 to 0 lead in the first 11 minutes of the game on two touchdown passes thrown by Don Scott. Michigan rallied with touchdowns in each of the second, third and fourth quarters. Michigan’s touchdowns were scored by Forest Evashevski (pass from Tom Harmon), Tom Harmon and Fred Trosko (on a fake field goal).
Sunday night the Junior League of Plymouth Congregational Church had the pleasure of hearing their former president, Toddy Cleage, who was here for the holidays, speak to them on the “Modern Interpretation of the Bible.” A few of those who were looking quite interested were: Noman Morris, Jmes Parker, Lois Simon, Ruth Giles, Shirley Turner, Mary V. Graham, Connie Stowers, Doris Graham, Henry Cleage, Alice Stanton, Anna Cleage, Phyllis Lawson, Eugene Kersey, George Payne, Velma Pullian, Hugh Cleage, Charles Harvell, Bo Johnson, Betty Lewis, Carlyle Johnson, Harriet Pate, Geo. Williams, Lewis Graham, Betty Blande, Roger Campfield, Oscar hand, Barbara Cleage, Gladys Cleage, Willie Smith, Bobby Humphrey, Billy Lawson, Joe Stanton, Florance Pate, Carolyn Plummer, Wilberforce Plummer, Elizebeth Patton. Toddy is in the religious seminary at Oberlin.
In an article in The Detroit Tribune issue of February 26, 1938, my grandmother, Mrs. Pearl Reed Cleage was announced as the speaker for the next meeting of the West Side Human Relation Council on the following Monday. I looked in The Detroit Tribune that came out the following week and there was nothing about that meeting or my grandmother’s speech, but I found an article that mentioned a speech on the same topic of juvenile delinquency that my grandfather had made the previous month. Both articles are below.
The West Side Human Relation Council met Monday at the Lothrop branch library, West Grand Boulevard at Warren avenue. Turner W. Ross, president, presided.
Reports from the various committees were made and accepted by the council. A discussion concerning the toy-making project now under way followed. Another suggestion for discussion was the consideration for the organization of a group composed of mothers. It was the belief of the council members that the mothers could contribute much in the fight against juvenile deliquency. John C. Dancy, executive secretary of the Detroit Urban League, spoke regarding a west side community center.
The next meeting of the council will be Monday at the same place. Mrs. Albert Cleage is scheduled to discuss “Good Home Environment as a Potent Factor in Delinquency.”
Cleage Talks on Children
Speaks at Juvenile Group Meeting
The January meeting of the Juvenile Protective Association of Michigan was largely attended by members and visitors.
The membership campaign under the supervision of Mrs. Gertrude Henderson assisted by Mrs. Mamye Donovan and Mrs. John O’Dell, have made visits to various churches, taking the program and purpose of the organization to the people. Many pledged their support.
The guest speaker at the last meeting was Dr. A. B. Cleage, a member of the organization, also a staff member at the Receiving Hospital. Dr. Cleage gave a very interesting talk on the need of the home and nurseries for children of the race. He spoke of cases where children who had no home guidance or training, fall easy victims to disease of body and mind.
The next meeting will be held Monday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John O’Dell. The speaker will be Attorney Charles Roxborough.
In 1937 Mary Virginia, my mother’s older sister, was 17 and a senior at Eastern High School, on East Grand Blvd within walking distance of the house on Theodore Ave. She graduated in June and in September went to Business College where she excelled in typing.
After attending business school, Mary Virginia worked for awhile at her cousin James McCall’s Newspaper, The Detroit Tribune. In 1940, he helped her get a good job typing with the city. She held the job for many years and received a proclamation from the City of Detroit for her service to the city during a Family Reunion when she was in her 80s.
Below is a transcribed article from Nov 20, 1937 issue of The Detroit Tribune. The clipping is below.
“Now for a bit of “Who Goes Where.” Running true to the Tribune’s policy of giving our young people a chance, we here introduce Miss Mary Virginia Graham of Theodore Street, and this is what Mary Virginia tells us: “There were a number of social gatherings over last weekend, so there was plenty of competition.
“The Beta Mu Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority had a dance at McKenzie Union. St. Matthews had their annual Balloon Dance, the play “Go Down Moses” was presented at Cass Technical High school; an Armistice dance was held in Windsor—this was all held on Friday night so everyone had somewhere to go.
“First of all I’ll start out by telling you who was at the Balloon Dance: Howard and his cute new girlfriend, Jean Johnson; Shirley Turner and “Don Juan” Graham and Charles Hill, Bob Johnson, Bud Elkins, Connie Stowers and Ted “Romeo” Williams, Thomas Askew, Lois Hall, Jeanette Bland, Catherine Redmond, who looked very cute in a red lace gown; Tolula Smith, Allie Mae Harriss, Helen Wilson, Veralee Fisher and Robert Truman, Pete Whittaker, Dorothy Smith, Christine Smoot, Bobbie Douglas, William Patrick, Jr., Walter House, Johnny Roxborough, Harriet Dunn, Bob Coker, Paul Smith, Wendell Turner and Mary E. Elkins, Billy Horner, Elizabeth and oh so many, many others.
“Well, the dance at the Mackenzie Union wasn’t lacking for guests either. Those seen swaying to George Dunbar’s recordings were: Margie Dunbar and her one and only Kermit Bailer; Carolyn Plummer and Toddy Cleage, Alice Stanton and Henry Cleage, Mary V. Graham and Carlyle Johnson, Oscar Hand, Charlotte Watts with Bassett Jones, who seems to be giving the little girl quite a rush; Eddie Donald, Frances Raiford with a very handsome stranger; Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Stanton, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Solomon, Mr. and Mrs. C. Johnson, Marjorie Greenidge, Francess Horner and Billy Russell, Spencer Cary, Lorraine Moss and Albert Wallace, St. Clair Billups, Walter Greene, that wise cracker; Frederick Cain. Theodore Woodson and others too numerous to mention. The Union certainly looks swell after its recent doing over.
“Shirley Turner, Doris Graham, Connie Stowers and M. V. Graham, attended the play “Richard Bordeaux” which was given by the Wayne University players at Wayne last Saturday. The girls reported that the play was put over very well by these student players.
“The Social Sixteen Club is really going places since its organization about 3 months ago. The members give this credit to its president, Miss Doris Graham and its secretary-treasurer, Miss Shirley Turner.”
Thank you, Mary Virginia. You have done well and we invite you to chat with us at another time.
Louis Cleage Responds Poetically to “Two Songs” by Gary Grimshaw
During the 1960s, my uncles owned and operated Cleage Printers. It was what was known as a “job printer,” meaning that it didn’t print books, but rather printed handbills for neighborhood markets and flyers, newsletters, magazines and pamphlets for various radical groups, including the black nationalist Group on Advanced Leadership (GOAL), the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Detroit Artists Workshop, a countercultural collaborative.
The printing plant was a place where people came to find discussion of the issues of the day and there were plenty of issues to discuss. My uncle Henry loved to hold forth on a variety of topics and his arguments were always well thought out and convincing. Hugh didn’t talk a lot, but he would have something to put in, maybe just a quiet shake of his head over what Henry was saying.
Their brother Louis Cleage was a doctor and his office was about 10 feet in front of the printing plant. When he came back, he would join in with his sarcastic comments and distinctive laugh. And surprising to me, my uncle Louis wrote poetry.
On Oct. 6, 2019, my good friend historian Paul Lee, who likes to consider himself an “honorary Cleage,” sent me an email with a copy of a poem that my uncle Louis had written.
I was so surprised because with all of Louis’ talents, I never knew that he wrote poetry. I immediately began to search for the poems that he was responding to, which were written by Detroit graphic artist and radical political activist Gary Grimshaw.
After Googling and looking for Work 4, where Grimshaw’s poems appeared, I found that the Flickr photostream of “jwc 3o2” (Canadian “cultural factotum” jw curry) had a copy of the cover (designed by Grimshaw) and wrote to ask him if he had the whole work and could send me a copy of the poems. He very kindly dug out his copy of Work 4, made a copy of the poems and sent them to me. You can see the cover and the poems by both Grimshaw and Louis below.
Two Songs by Gary Grimshaw
You’ve made your responsibilities To wash your car and mow your lawn While I’ve made mine To stay excited about being alive And you don’t understand Why I won’t stay home
Without seeing it happen You’ve slipped into the norm While I’ve kept my eyes open For the pleasure of new things And you don’t understand Why I am different from the rest
In the name of reason You’ve drained the joy from life While I make mistakes Because I won’t listen to advice From a dying generation And you wonder why I stare at the floor when you speak August 2
“Prove yourself!” yells the Queen of Morality In her castle on the hill of broken dreams “But there’s nothing to prove!” I yell back From my midnight ancient cellar As the King slips off to the prison factory.
The Queen’s daughters know the virtue of work They dream of an effortless struggle Against inactivity and doubt Carried on in calm organization Won by merciless repression.
The King once was young, like me I often think of him this way Before he volunteered to die His funeral went unnoticed In the steady hum of the factory Where he surrendered to Chief Reason And succeeding days drove out whim and fancy Leaving him with What Is and nothing more What Is, the terrible master. August 12
A Comment on “Two Songs by Gary Grimshaw“
I heard your song, my son so clear and yet so lonely in the night. The enchantment of its melancholy beauty Transported me through space and time to moon-lit waters of a blue lagoon.
In the quiet of the night, a golden maiden played a dulcimer. A nightingale sang a song of youth and beauty that stirred my senses with such violence as to test the very sinews that bound me to my reason. I was once again the young King in the timeless land. The golden maiden was my queen.
Though now, we are as strangers when we meet, I understand that you are different from the rest. In the quiet of the night, when the beauty of your song stirs my heart, My lonely soul cries out to you, my son, —-for understanding.
Louis J. Cleage, M.D. Detroit 3/27/67
Header photograph is of the Cleage Clinic (front brick building) with Cleage Printers (gray cement block building) in the back. I photoshopped it from a Google Maps view from July 2009.
I would like to thank Paul Lee for the additional information that he sent me, which I have incorporated into this post.
I never realized how sociable my mother and other family members of her generation were until I started reading the social items in The Detroit Tribune. I first found this photograph in the family photographs of my mother, (center back row), her sister Mary Vee (seated on the floor), and my father’s sister Barbara seated on the couch to the far right. I also recognized my uncle Bud (Frank Elkins) who later married Mary Vee and a few family friends. I wondered what sociable things they did and when I found the following items in the Tribune, I found out.
No wonder my mother worried that I wasn’t social enough.
“The Social Sixteen Club met at the residence of Gladys and Walter House, Monday, Dec. 27. Plans were completed for the club’s New Yea’s Eve swing, which was held on December 31. Following the completion of these plans, members turned their attention to the refreshments and dancing, both of which were enjoyed. Later in the evening, the crowd went out to Bob Johnson’s home on Montclair, where they had a grand time. These young folk included Jean Johnson Howard Tandy, Shirley Turner, Lewis Graham, Bob Douglas, Bud Elkins, Connie Stowers, Jack Franklin, Jack Barthwell, Vee Graham.”
“Members of the Social Sixteen Club feel that they will have pleasant sailing, under the pilotship of their winsome new president Doris Graham, talented daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham of Theodore avenue. Miss Graham is very popular among the “teen-age” set and is an honor student at Eastern High School.”
“The Social Sixteen Club held its latest meeting at the home of Mrs. Christine Smoot. After the completion of business, a repast was served by the hostess. The next meeting will be held at the residence of Miss Barbara Cleage, on Scotten avenue. At this meeting, they will render a program as follows; vocal solo, Christine Smoot; tap dance, Shirley Turner and Connie Stowers. The newly-elected officers of the club are; Doris Graham, president; Howard Tandy, vice president and corresponding secretary; Bob Johnson, secretary-treasurer.”
Well we is in Los Angeles… (Typewriter is still on the way) Our last two weeks in San Francisco were a conglomeration of everybody sending us on our way. We had supper out almost everyday — and all of San Francisco’s Elite entertained us — quite a time was had by all. We also received several gifts in addition to the church’s gift of books — Cigarettes — Candy — towel set — 2 lbs of coffee — ash trays — and books (even a copy of Strange Fruit). People were very nice — with their regrets and hopes that we will return when Thurman leaves. Frisky kept smiling even though it seemed to hurt his face.
Just before we we left we met Rev. Roy Nichols who has another inter-racial church (Congregational) across the Bay in Berkley. His co-pastor is Rev. Gallager who was president of Talladega College before coming to the “Pacific School of Religion”. Nichols “offered me a job “working with him and Gallager — and tried to arrange a meeting with Gallager but I was too busy. (I’m tired of inter-racial churches for the present!)
President Imes of Knoxville College sent me an application blank which I returned (with a letter in which I re-organized Knoxville’s curriculum around religious education!) He said he had an opening for a Prof. of Religious Ed — and a college Preacher — the combined job paying $1,890 per year and house.
(The top corner of the page, where the return address would be on the reverse side is torn out, leaving four half sentences.
….ply to my application …happy to have …ine training and …Knoxville faulty – but he would have to work slowly to get the Elders of the church – and he does not want to seem to be forcing – the issue etc. He also admitted that the salary is very inadequate (with which I agree!!!) He said that he had mentioned my application to the President of Virginia State College who also is looking for a College Preacher but just for a year while the regular preacher is away studying. He suggested that Virginia State will contact me — giving me the opportunity to pick the position which offers the best position. (Nice, isn’t he!)
Anyway – I’m writing Imes and advising him to take his time — I’d rather stay here until next fall anyway I can finish two years work at the U. of Southern California by that time. As I told him, I’m looking for a permanent position which will still allow me time for study during the summer — with an occasional semester off for study etc. I don’t suppose anything will come of it!
Los Angeles is a fine town! Except for our present financial uproar we like it better than any place we’ve been yet.
Our financial-uproar is due to the fact that we have not as yet received our last — $200 — pay! Dr. Smith stopped payment because I insisted upon $200 instead of $135 –. So — I have turned a bill into the church for the balance of $65 due. I suppose I’ll get it all one of these days! (over Frisky’s dead body!)
Our apartment is Super-duper!!! It’s “on the hill”– which in Detroit would be the “North-End” — except its more like Boston Blvd — or Lake-shore Drive!!! — Big — fine houses, lawns and palm-trees. Negroes have not broken into the “hill district” A Mrs. Hammonds of Detroit owns the building (Husband a racketeer (?) or something in Detroit). Our living room is right out of “House and Garden” magazine — It is long with blue wall to wall carpet — and white walls and woodwork — and white walls and colored upholstered furniture — end tables — cocktail table ‘n that — (Ohhh yes and Venetian Blinds at the windows which are all the way across one end of the room with wine-colored drapes at either end!) The bathroom is pale-blue tile with white woodwork ‘n that. Shower — built in bath tub ‘n’ that!
The only catch is the kitchen which is an alcove between the living room and the bah-room. It’s shrewd, too but it ain’t got neither sink nor stove! We’re supposed to get an electric plate to cook on — and the land lady is supposed to put in a sink! The ice-box and cupboard are in. It was called a Bachelor-apt. — and so had no stove or sink.
Both the kitchen living room and bath have built in automatic heating units (gas). The living-room has an “In-a-door-bed” which is very nice — and the closet for clothes! We also have a garage for storage, the building is new and shrewd! Thousands of Negroes within walking distance and all in nice homes – quiet and taken care of just like white-folks. I can see why Daddy wanted to move out here. It would be a fine place to live if you had money!
We’ve been here eating at the restaurant ever since we got here – There’s a very nice little colored restaurant within walking distance “The Faun” – very elite — ‘n’ that! But our pocket-books won’t stand much more of it, — fun though while it lasts!!!
I registered at the University of Southern California today. Its a fine campus and buildings — I can’t tell about classes yet. With the religion fellowship — my bill was $73.00 for 16 hours (full semester). Without the reduction it would have been over $200.00 (and I’d a been right home!) Most (all but one) of my courses are in Cinema — with one religion course to enable me to register in the graduate school of religion.
Doris starts job-hunting any day now! She has an appointment with the Red-Cross and the Urban League. Can’t tell how everything is going to turn out — quite an escapade however, if we can just last a year! and then move on to New York – authorities in the field of Cinema and Religious Ed. ‘n’ that.
Tell the Junior Doctor to keep his fingers crossed until we wire him formoney — and then to wire the money — and send “the I told you so” on by air-mail!