St Mark’s United Presbyterian Church 1951 & 1953

detroit-free-press-5121951-st-marksIn 1951 our family moved from Springfield, MA to Detroit, where my father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., was called as pastor of St. Marks United Presbyterian Community Church at Twelfth and Atkinson. My paternal grandparents lived several blocks up Atkinson.  The parsonage was right down the block from them.  He was there until 1953 when there was a church split. My father and 300 members started a new church that became Central Congregational Church and finally The Shrine of the Black Madonna.

Here are links to two blog posts about these events, Moving Day – Springfield to Detroit 1951, A Church and Two Brothers .

Below are some then and now photographs of St. Mark’s and the parsonage at  2212 Atkinson.


Son James 2016. My father and Mr. in 1953.
My son James in 2016. My father and Mr. Lindsey Johnson from Springfield, Massachusetts in 1953.  Photograph by Paul Lee. Moving Day Revisited has more  information about Lindsey B. Johnson.
After church at St. Mark’s Community United Presbyterian Church in 1953 combined with a 2011 photograph taken by Benjamin Smith. In the group near the door I see myself, my sister Pearl, my mother Doris Graham Cleage, my uncle Henry Cleage and Choir director Oscar Hand leaning out of the door.
In front of St. Marks 1953. I see my mother in the dark suit and part of my little sister Pearl behind her in a light colored dress.  Combined with another photograph by Benjamin Smith.  This photo and the one below first appeared in the blog post “A Sunday After Church About 1953
The parsonage now and us back in 1953.
The parsonage now and us back in 1953 before the church split.  This photograph first appeared  in the blog post Then and Now – Atkinson About 1953″.


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14 thoughts on “St Mark’s United Presbyterian Church 1951 & 1953

  1. Hello Kristen – I remember my Mother telling about this in the spring of 1953. I was attending St. Luke’s (Ohio and Tireman) in the 7th grade. That was quite a power play move! Your Father was a “Change Shaker”. Shakers are important to maintain a dynamic society.

    1. He was definitely a shaker. What do you remember about what she told you? I’m always looking for memories about family events. Usually they differ slightly or come at it from a different angle.

  2. Watched the CBS coverage of the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture this morning and thought of your father and you. The website in place is already very rich in content. Great material. These photos of yours are splendid! It’s hard to imagine that anyone would object to adding cultural and social elements to church activities.

    1. I believe my great uncle Henry and those who agreed with him thought that the focus of the church should be on the members and on more traditional religious elements.

  3. More fascinating ‘then and now’ photographs. The buildings’ former inhabitants are like spirits from the past.

  4. The pictures are wonderful. I like how this post and previous ones describe a lot of complex church and family issues in a way that is understanding of the the various perspectives.

    1. Most of the time in disputes of this kind, both sides are sincere and I try to remember that when I write about it. It’s very sad to me when close families split apart like this.

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