This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations. On Saturdays I’ve combined my usual Sepia Saturday post with the letter of the day. A double challenge!
In the 1909 Easter season, my grandmother Pearl Reed sang at two events. Her photograph appeared in the section of the white paper “The Indianapolis News” entitled “News of Colored Folk” My grandfather Albert B. Cleage also appeared doing a reading at Witherspoon Presbyterian Church’s Easter service. I have included the newspaper column below. If you click you can enlarge it. I will also transcribe the two items that mention my grandparents below.
I am fulfilling two prompts with this post, the” first”A” in the A to Z Challenge and the Sepia Saturday post “Sing.”
“Ressurrection of Christ.”
Witherspoon Memorial United Presyterian church will have special services at 10:30. The church is holding its services at the Y.M.C.A. rooms, North and California streets. The morning program will include a short sermon by the pastor, the Rev. D. F. White; Dr. Albert Cleage will read a paper on “The Resurrection of Christ”; Mrs. Pearl Donan will read the Easter lesson. There will be solos by Mrs. Othello Finley and Miss Pearl D. Reed, and a select chorus will sing “Hear His Voice.”
MUSIC FESTIVAL FRIDAY
Miss Pearl Reed One of Singers at Jones Tabernacle.
Among the special attractions of Easter week will be the music festival to be given next Friday evening at Jones Tabernacle, under the auspices of the Witherspoon Memorial United Presbyterian church. A carefully selected program has been arranged in which the best available talent will take part.
In addition to Miss Pearl Reed, a popular soloist, Miss Osie Watkins of Richmond, had been engaged to sing. Other features will be vocal solos by Aldridge Lewis and Mrs. Sallie Robinson. There will be instrumental solos by Alfred Taylor. The Twentieth Century Club of Jones Tabernacle, will serve refreshments at the close of the program.
I am finishing up my posts for the April A to Z Challenge! I can’t believe I’ve completed all but two of my posts for the WHOLE CHALLENGE! I still have to complete “O” and “Y”, which I will wrap up today. I will be able to devote the month to visiting other blogs and replying to my (hopefully) numerous comments! And…
writing a poem a day for Na/GloPoWriMo (National/Global Poetry Writing Month) on my Ruff Draft blog. This is the 20th year of the challenge and the 5th year I have participated. I have been really lax about writing poetry since the Half Marathon last June!
My paternal grandmother, Pearl Reed Cleage was born in Lebanon, Kentucky. Her family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana when she was a young girl and that is where she grew up. She sang at various events before she married and my father was born and the family moved to Kalamazoo, MI. I found this newspaper article in the box of family photos and was able to find more information about the event in several local papers. I found one of the songs she sang (Oh Dry Those Tears) and I shared it below.
Sings in Concert at Simpson Chapel
Miss Pearl D. Reed The violin recital of Clarence Cameron White will be given this evening at Simpson Chapel under the direction of the Colored Y.M.C.A. Orchestra. He will be supported by the best local talent. The following program will be given: Overture – “Northern Lights,” Y.M.C.A. Orchestra Violin – Hungarian Rhapsodie, Clarence Cameron White Song – “Oh Dry Those Tears,” Miss Pearl D. Reed.” Piano – “Vaise in C sharp minor (b) Polanaise in A major. Mrs. Alberta J. Grubbs. Violin – (a) Tran Merel: (b) Scherzo, Clarence Cameron White Intermission Orchestra – “The Spartan,” orchestra Vocal – “Good-by”, Miss Pearl D. Cleage Readings A.A. Taylor. Selection – “The Bird and Brook,” orchestra
The Indianapolis Star, Friday May 8, 1908
“The Cameron White Recital”
Clarence Cameron White ably sustained his reputation as a violinist at Simpson Chapel church last week under the auspices of of the Y.M.C.A. Mr. White plays a clean violin; he gets all out of it there is – dragging his bow from tip to tip, and more if it were possible. He did not attempt any of the great big things – the big concertos, and perhaps for the best. Yet he showed his capability for such work and at the same time satisfied his audience. His encores as a rule were selections that the audience recognized and through the beautiful renditions it could easily form some estimate of his playing ability. Mr. White was a decided success. Seldom is has a good class of music been so thoroughly appreciated. He was supported at the piano by Samuel Ratcliffe whose playing was commendable. Miss Pearl D. Reed proved an acceptable contralto singer. The orchestra under Alfred A. Taylor did some very effective work. Mr. Taylor proved a reader of ability; he read several of his own selections. The audience was magnificent and paid the utmost attention to the renditions.”
The Freeman An Illustrated Colored Newspaper 1908 May 16 page 4
One of the songs Pearl Reed sang at the recital, “Oh Dry Those Tears”
I do not remember seeing my parents dressed up for this dance or any dance. The most dressed up would be for church or holidays and there were no evening gowns worn for those. I was six years old. I do not remember ever seeing my parents dressed up and going out. After we moved off of Atkinson to Chicago Blvd, I remember that my mother had several fancy gowns hanging in her closet, but never saw her wear one.
That radio was passed to me when I was in college and I had it for a number of years before I moved to very small quarters and most of my stuff disappeared. There was a phonograph in the lower part. You could also get short wave through the radio and I remember listening to Radio Habana Cuba during high school while I was studying Spanish.
Now, if they were down there practicing their steps to the radio or their collection of 78s, that would be a life I wasn’t aware of. I was in college before I found those 78s and heard The Ink Spots, Bessie Smith and so many other classics. My mother never played them as I was growing up.
I found this article in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity magazine, The Sphinx, about a ball in the spring of 1952 in Detroit. This might be the one my parents were going to.
I have gone through a couple of possible themes for this year’s A to Z Challenge. The ever present and as yet untold stories of the Edleweiss Club. The 1960 census, which won’t be released until 2032. Who knows if I will be blogging in eleven years? I have decided to do Snippets of My Family History through the generations using family photographs.
This will be my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013 but I missed 2021, doing only two posts before dropping out.
A Way of Travel “From the 1830s through the 1950s, people traveled in trains pulled by steam locomotives. Cars in these trains were almost always arranged in a particular order—an order that reflected social hierarchy. Coal-burning steam engines spewed smoke and cinders into the air, so the most privileged passengers sat as far away from the locomotive as possible. The first passenger cars—the coaches—were separated from the locomotive by the mail and baggage cars. In the South in the first half of the 20th century, the first coaches were “Jim Crow cars,” designated for black riders only. Passenger coaches for whites then followed. Long-distance trains had a dining car, located between the coaches and any sleeping cars. Overnight trains included sleeping cars—toward the back because travelers in these higher-priced cars wanted to be far away from the locomotive’s smoke. A parlor or observation car usually brought up the rear“
My father was 18 in June of 1929 when he graduated from Northwestern High School in Detroit. That fall he entered Wayne State University. After a year, he decided he wanted to attend a black college and for a year he went to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He had been to his father’s hometown of Athens, Tennessee with his family while growing up to visit family that remained there. They always drove down, stopping with relatives or friends on the way because hotels were segregated and unavailable to black travelers. This was my father’s first time riding in a segregated Jim Crow car.
In a 1967 sermon titled “An Enemy Hath Done This“, he reminisces about this trip. I have excerpted it from the book “The Black Messiah” by Albert B. Cleage, Jr., pages 160 and 161. Published by Sheed & Ward 1968
Thoughts on a Jim Crow Car
by Albert B. Cleage Jr.
I remember a few years ago when black folks were forced to ride in Jim Crow Cars, I went down South. It was a horrible thing to sit there in a Jim Crow car and wonder why all of us should be jammed into this little car just because we were black. It was the first time I had been down South, and I was very ignorant. I couldn’t even find the car to begin with. When you climbed into that car you had to have some kind of sinking feeling that there had to be something wrong with you. You knew the man was right because it was his train. It was his station. He was letting you ride. He had to be right. So you couldn’t help thinking that the man wouldn’t be putting me way back on this old beat-up piece of car unless there was something wrong with me.
Even then, on a Jim Crow car, there was a better feeling than in the plush cars in which the white folks rode.Sometimes we over look those little things, but honestly, the first time I rode on a Jim Crow car I said, “This is the nicest train I have ever been on.” I was going down to Fisk, my first year in college. It was the nicest train car I have ever been on because the people had something together. We ought to have been tearing up the train because we had no business back there. But instead, we were laughing and talking and sharing our lunch, you know, the shoe box with fried chicken and soul food. You know how you how white folks act on a train, everybody taking care of his own business and looking all evil at everybody else. Well, these folks were saying, “Won’t you have some?” and walking up and down the aisle and making sure everybody did have some. With no white folks around, everyone was relaxed and friendly. I thought to myself, this is another kind of train. It is a Jim Crow thing the white man has put us in but even here we have something he doesn’t know anything about.
That didn’t justify it because we had no business in there, sweet as it was. There was something wrong with it, and deep down inside all of us knew it. One of the things that made us friendly was the fact that we were sharing the same kind of oppression. We all hated the same man. I know you would like me to say it another way, we were unfriendly to the same man, or something. But we were together because the man forced us together, and this little Jim Crow car symbolized it. When we got off the car, it didn’t matter where the station was, we all headed straight for wherever it was black folks lived. The car was just a symbol of the life that we lived. I had never been on a Jim Crow car but I had lived in a Jim Crow community all of my life
My mother in the spring of 1934 standing on a box by the cherry tree in the backyard.
I’m not sure what kind of cherries these were, but here is a picture of my grandfather picking cherries the year before. If they were pie cherries, I’m sure my grandmother made pies. There was also an apple tree, a garden and chickens in their Detroit backyard.
My aunt Mary Vee was 13 years old. My grandmother Fannie was 46. My mother Doris was 11. Bonzo was five years old. It looks like they are just back from church service at Plymouth Congregational Church.
In 1934 they got their first car, a model A named “Lizzie”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. My grandfather worked as a stock keeper at the Ford Motor Company Rouge Plant. My grandmother didn’t work outside of the home. Mary Vee attended Eastern high school and Doris attended Barber Intermediate school.
I remember a summer in the 1990s when my husband worked for the Michigan Department of Transportation. One year they were building Highway 31 from Pentwater to Ludington. The route went through some orchards which were doomed to be bulldozed. One July weekend we went and picked so many cherries! There were red and black and yellow and they were fully ripe. We went a few times. Never have we eaten so many cherries. So delicious and so sad the trees were destroyed.
It was August, 1950. We were out in the backyard. My little sister Pearl had a little tin cup. My Aunt Barbara Cleage probably sent it to her. She gave me a pair of red shoes when I was about the same age.
I don’t remember the little tin cup Pearl is holding, nor the rest of the tea set it came from. The tea set I remember looked like the one above. It was kept in it’s red and white box and had been made-in-occupied Japan. While looking for a photo of it, I found that it was lusterware. I had just read a book where the woman had a prize lusterware set. I had no idea what it was. It wasn’t something we played with everyday, being special and used rarely for little tea drinking. The set lasted until I was grown up with children of my own.
When my oldest daughter was about two or three years old, she and her dad went to Detroit and visited my parents. I don’t remember why I didn’t go. Probably because Jilo was able to fly free in those days. My mother sent send the tea set back with her. One by one my daughters dropped them piece by piece. The last piece was the teapot. I use to keep it on a small shelf in my kitchen when we lived in Mississippi. It’s gone now. Disappeared.
I used to like making small places outside. The first one I remember was under the back porch when we lived in a two family flat on Calvert in Detroit. The porch above wasn’t high enough up for me to stand up, but it wasn’t so low I had to crawl in. I found bricks around and built a two or three brick high wall around two sides. I don’t remember doing much out there after I got it together. I was about nine years old at that time. My sister remembers playing marbles there. I did make a nice, smooth dirt floor.
In Poppy’s and Nanny’s yard we made tents out of quilts. We would use them for the duration of whatever game we were playing. My Quilt Tent – 1958
Later when we lived on Oregon, I built a snow house against the garage one winter. Again, I don’t remember hanging around in it. After all it was winter in the 1950s when winter was freezing and snowy for months. I also cleaned up the garage and fixed it up as a place I could go. But it was a garage and I remember the smell wasn’t that pleasant. Rats around the garbage cans? I never saw any, but I gave that one up.
At Old Plank, I made a stick frame and wove large leaves into it. As you can see I even built a campfire circle of stones and had a fire going at least once.
One morning I came out and found a snake curled comfortably inside. It was cool and the snake was sluggish. Henry did what he always did when coming upon a snake, he killed it. I don’t remember the particulars, did he beat it to death or did he shoot it? What sort of snake was it? Above he is holding it up for the photographer, probably my mother. I do remember an incident decades later in Idlewild when Henry did kill a snake at my Aunt Barbara’s with a blow as I tried to persuade him it was a harmless snake that ate mice. He paid me no mind.
My mother was born in Detroit in 1923 to Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham. This year marks 100 years since her birth. Below are 101 photos of her. Beneath the photo are some of the posts I have done about her life.