Picking beans – Old Plank 1963

Doris Graham Cleage picking green beans at Old Plank 1963

I’ve been thinking about my mother these last few days. My mother, Doris Graham Cleage, was picking vegetables in the garden at Old Plank. I wrote about the farm in my post  Playing Poker. What else was my mother doing in 1963, aside from maintaining a large, organic garden?  She turned 40 February 12 that year and lived on the west side of Detroit at 5397 Oregon  with her second husband, Henry Cleage and her two daughters Kris, 17  and my sister Pearl, 14.  Both of us were students at Northwestern High School.  Henry was printing in those days and putting out the Illustrated News.

She was in her 5th year of teaching Social Studies at Roosevelt Elementary School.  She took two post masters degree classes at Wayne State University that year, Urban Geography in the winter quarter and Constitutional Law in the fall quarter.

There was a lot going on in those days and my family was involved in a lot of it. To see what was going on in the news in 1963 click here –> Politics

To read about the March To Freedom in Detroit, when over 100,000 people walked down Woodward Avenue to protest the violence in Birmingham, Alabama, in July 1963 click here –> Walk to Freedom.

To see Henry and the press at Cleage Printers click here –>  Henry printing


17 thoughts on “Picking beans – Old Plank 1963

  1. Another great story, fabulous photo. Agree that your mother was a beautiful woman. Again, I am stunned at your wonderful collection of photos.

    1. I was thinking about my family photos and how there is a story in the photos themselves – in the kinds of photos that were taken and when they were taken and when they stopped being taken. There’s a post there somewhere. Seems like the more I post, the more ideas I get for more posts.

      1. Dear Kristin, yes, there is a post in that, but i think your whole blog is also about the story told by your family photos. It’s a wonderful approach to archival history as well as family memoir. This photo of your mom is powerfully moving to me. Your mom has such a strong energetic imprint. I was surprised to see the date of the photo was 1963. Everything about it looks so contemporary to me, and your mom’s sense of agency in this photo is… exhilarating!

        1. I guess what I meant was that I discovered another story that the photos were telling me that I hadn’t heard before. Yes, my mother was a very strong women.

          I wonder what you mean about being modern. What makes most photos from 1963 dated?

  2. Interesting thought about when people stopped taking pictures. Something to put on a timeline.

    As for this post – I so love how you put the pastoral picture of your mother into the context of the day. Jarring, to say the least. And very well done.

    1. Thanks Susan. I’m liking putting the photos and letters into a larger context. Often I don’t remember/realize what was going on at the time until I look.

  3. This picture is priceless, and your mother is beautiful! I wonder how many transitions your mother went through? She, like me, became a teacher when it seemed as if the guidance counselors funneled all girls into business, education or nursing. It sounds like she thrived.

    1. Kathy, I think she went into teaching because it would put her on the same schedule as my sister and me. I should do a timeline.

  4. I’M SORRY,
    but you wonder where I get this feel for sophistication, when you talk of degrees and political activism, and yet, you show a pic of a garden that looks like it should be the pride of the State… color me confused here!!!
    Not that I think that rural folks have no political sense nor interests, but just that you sound a little too urban to me… despite what you might say otherwise, or even show in picture(s)…

    Doris is adorable, and beguiling…
    (so said the gay guy… of all people!!)
    I don’t know who took the pic,
    but there’s another successful shot!!
    I told you before:
    The state if not the country should make you (and your pics) a national treasure!!

    1. I was raised in the city but I never feel sophisticated because when I think of sophisticated I think of well dressed people going to posh events and feeling at ease there, which I don’t.

      I’m pretty sure Henry took this photo.

  5. Wonderful photo! Forty is such an interesting age–and a time for reflection. Your mother was no longer young; yet she wasn’t old either. Your mother had so many interests–from gardening, to teaching, and the Freedom March. I wonder what she was thinking when this photo was taken.

  6. Love, love, love the photo of your mom. What an amazing family history. Will you ever consider transforming your blog into a memoir? Or hosting a photography exhibition with the NBAF or the future National Center for Civil and Human Rights. 🙂 I will keep my fingers crossed that I will someday be able to include the Cleage family in my treasured book collection of African American studies.

  7. Your mother had such a wonderful smile. She is someone who knew who she was. Love it!

  8. Great Post..beautiful picture of your mom. Loved the way you captured the memory of her. Thanks for sharing.

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