The Fabulous Cleages – 1952

This Sunday afternoon, I came across this article on the fb page of one of my cousins. Article and transcription below.

April 12, 1952 The Michigan Chronicle – “America’s Fastest Growing Weekly”

The Cleages An Introduction to one of Detroit’s most Versatile and Accomplished Families

A bright-eyed little lad of eight crossed 12th street just below Edison and walked down to the St. Mark’s Community Church near Atkinson. He opened the door,  entered and was directed to the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who sat on a table in the basement watching a troop of Brownie girl scouts busily making puppets.

“Can I help you?” the Rev. Mr. Cleage asked the little boy.

The boy nodded. He was trying to locate his cub scout group. He gave the Rev. Mr. Cleage the troop number and the minister located the troop meeting place through a church bulletin. He gave the boy directions, and the boy went away.

The incident was typical of the attitude of the people of that community toward each other and the St. Mark’s Church in general, and toward the Rev. Mr. Cleage in particular

In less than a year, the boyish-looking pastor of the church has succeeded in making the church not only a spiritual stronghold but a center of community interest and service as well.

Practical institutions like a day nursery, with a paid worker, where all members of the community can bring their children are integral parts of the total church program.

Youth activities, including sports, socials and dramatics, are not merely encouraged – they are directed and supervised by adults in the church.

The Rev. Mr. Cleage believes that the church should serve the community as a whole and not simply the adults. He also believes –in his own words – “That the church cannot have much influence on the congregation if it merely serves as a meeting place for services on Sunday morning.”

This intelligent approach toward religion, which draws into it all the normal aspects of living, characterizes the Rev. Mr. Cleage. It is an attitude which does not spring solely from his theological training but which has its roots deep in his family background.

For the Cleage family is one of Detroit’s most versatile and accomplished families.

The Cleage family is headed by Dr. Albert B. Cleage, Sr., veteran physician who has practiced medicine on the city’s west side since 1913, and by his wife, Pearl.

A graduate of Knoxville college and of the University of Indiana medical school, Dr. Cleage instilled in his four sons and three daughters an appreciation for education, sound principles and respect for human dignity.

All seven of the younger Cleages attended Wayne University. The Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the oldest son, went on to graduate from the Oberlin (Ohio) Graduate School of Theology and to work on his doctorate in Visual Education at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

The second son, Dr. Louis J. Cleage, gradated from the Wayne University medical school. After interning at the Homer Phillips hospital in St. Louis, Dr. Cleage returned to Detroit to practice medicine with his father.

Henry W. Cleage, the third son, graduated from the Wayne university college of law and is a member of the legal firm of Cleage ad League in Detroit.

The youngest son Hugh, who studied agriculture at Wayne and at Michigan state college, is presently a clerk in the Detroit Post Office.

Two of the three Cleage daughters are now married and live in other parts of the county. Mrs. Barbara (Cleage) Martin lives in Newburg, N.Y. and Mrs. Gladys (Cleage) Evans, a former Detroit schoolmarm resides at the Veterans hospital at Tuskegee, Ala., where her husband is a physician.

Anna, the youngest of the Cleages, will graduate from the Detroit, will graduate from the Detroit Institute of Technology’s school of pharmacy in June. She has already received her bachelor of arts degree from Wayne university.

During the war years, capitalizing on Hugh’s training and Henry’s zeal, the two Cleage’s bought a 100-acre farm at Capac, Mich., and proceeded to raise chickens and operate a dairy. They maintained an average of 1,000 broilers plus 500 laying hens, and a herd of 15 milk cows.

Though successful, the venture proved just a bit strenuous for the two, so they sold the farm and returned home. Henry went back to his law books and Hugh became a postal employee.

The Cleage family is a closely-knit unit, the kind of family which is held up as an example of the typical American family. It is a disciplined unit, with the wisdom of age and experience meeting the enthusiasm of youth, and the two being molded into a liberal philosophy of life.

From this family background, the Detroit community has profited. For, aside from the fact that such a well-balanced group is a community asset in itself, the family produced the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who is demonstrating through his leadership of the St. Marks congregation the virtues of his family training. – by Fuller


Other stories about this time and St. Marks

“A” is for Atkinson

Alpha Dance 1952

Then and Now St. Marks

A Sunday Morning in 1953 Merges With a Day in 2011

A Church and Two Brothers – Two Splits

19 thoughts on “The Fabulous Cleages – 1952

  1. How cool is that! – such a detailed article too. Paints a great picture of the family, and of the times. The daughters seem to be settled quite far from the parental home, wonder how often they had a chance to see each other? and how did they travel in the 50’s?

    1. My father, Rev. A.B.Cleage jr. had just moved us back to Detroit from Springfield, MA the year before. I remember visiting Detroit before that by train. My grandfather Cleage drove when he came to see us in Springfield.

      My aunt Gladys and her family also moved back to Detroit several years later, when her husband got out of the service. My aunt Barbara and her son moved back home soon after when she left her husband.

      So, everybody ended up back in Detroit and not living too far apart, working together at the church and on other things – politics and several newspapers for instance.

  2. Kris, I don’t know if you’re aware that the author of this profile was Hoyt W. Fuller, who was born at Atlanta, but raised at Detroit. He would later edit for Johnson Publishing “Negro Digest,” which evolved into “Black World.” After he left Johnson, he founded the short-lived “First World” at Atlanta.

    If you’ve ever wondered why your father and “black” Detroit got such great coverage in “Negro Digest/Black World,” it’s because of Fuller, who, sadly, has never been acknowledged as one the greatest “black” literary figures of the latter half of the 20th century. Indeed, no one did more to promote “black” literature, and the cultural and political movements that it was a part of, than Fuller.

    I only wish that you cousin has made a higher resolution scan of this profile. It seems that they scanned it on the lo-res default setting. Pity. The photo would be much clearer if they’d scanned it at least 300 dpi, but preferably 600 dpi.

    1. Thanks Paul,
      I was wondering who the Fuller was who wrote it.
      I pulled this off of my cousins fb page and it was only 72 dpi, hence the not the best copy. I’m hoping to get a better copy.

  3. In case you are not aware of this reference to your family in the book “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” by Jemar Tisby that I read today… pgs. 147-8:
    “Certainly some black ministers pushed back against this Eurocentric image of Christ. On Easter Sunday in 1976, Rev. Albert Cleage Jr. consecrated the Shrine of the Black Madonna, formerly Central Congregational Church, and revealed a seven-foot-tall painting of Mary and the baby Christ, both depicted as black people. And needless to say, his alternate depiction of Jesus proved to be quite controversial.”

      1. I am reading the book as a part of a book group at church. Thank you for the link. I’ll share with the others I’m reading with. It was “fun,” for lack of a better word, to come across the reference in the book and have the name be familiar to me.

        1. I know what you mean about being fun. There are other letters and sermons of my fathers, some are audios. if you search for his name – Albert B. Cleage Jr up there, they’ll come up.

  4. Wow–what a great article! And you and your sister are in the picture (within the picture) too. I liked “this intelligent approach toward religion” and the terrific closing tribute. Your generation and the next are clearly carrying on the family tradition.

    1. There was a difference with that generation though. They all lived in Detroit most of the time and they all worked together supporting the same organizations and endeavors – the church, the Freedom Now Party, the Illustrated News, the Black slate. That hasn’t been the case with my generation or those following. Family members are more spread out, interests are more varied. I don’t know, anyway, it’s different.

  5. This is a great find for your genealogical pursuits! I loved reading about an older publication about your family…and how it (family) stood in the community, and in comments how the publication and author influenced Black culture of the 50s. Very important information to share. A friend just told me she’s going on a “civil rights” tour with a friend, Memphis and Selma visits. Today’s the anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s death, June 5, 1968.

    1. Yes, I’m very glad my cousin had it.
      I remember that. Bobby Kennedy’s was one of the string of assassinations that took place at that time.

  6. I couldn’t find contact info. You have comments closed on William Watkins. His wife Gussie Rue Harris was my friend’s aunt. If you can give my email to the relatives you mentioned, it would be much appreciated. Thank you

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