B – BARBARA Cleage

The photographs used in this series are from my personal collection. Please do not use without my express permission.

Barbara Pearl Cleage was the fifth child and first daughter born to the Cleages. She was also the first child born in the house on Scotten Avenue. She was born at home on July 10, 1920.

She soon grew taller than her older brother, Hugh. This made her self conscious until a dressmaker, Mrs. Chase, convinced her that she was very good looking. Barbara always looks quite stylish in her photos, even when a young girl. When I mentioned seeing her in a photo of “The Social Sixteen”, a group of young people that included my mother and her sister who met at each others homes and held dances and other social events, she said that they only let her in because of her older brothers.

Barbara was featured as person of the month in our family news letter, The Ruff Draft. My children put it out for family and friends during our homeschooling years.


This little magazine was published by some of the same people that published Crisis Magazine when Barbara was only a few months old. The purpose was to provide positive images and stories for African American school children.

Published Monthly and Copyrighted by DuBois and Dill, Publishers, at 2 West 13th Street, New York, N. Y. Conducted by W. E. Burghardt DuBois; Jessie Redmon Fauset, Literary Editor; Augustus Granville Dill, Business Manager

The Brownie Book – click to see a copy of The Brownie Book.

36 thoughts on “B – BARBARA Cleage

  1. I’m always so impressed that newspapers carried so many stories about the people of the community. I’m not sure that happened here in Italy.

    1. I forgot to label that paper. It was a newsletter that my family put out using a computer and printer during the years my younger children were home schooling. Barbara did appear in more mainstream newspapers too.

    1. She was very busy up into her 80s. She loved managing and running the church bookstores and cultural centers. Talents that had been hidden for her early life came to the fore.

      I’m glad Mrs. Chase convinced her she was beautiful too.

  2. Barbara does look very stylish in all the pics Kristin, even as a three year old in 1923.
    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    1. Her later ones even more so, but I didn’t want to stray too far from the 1920s. I think the one in the newsletter was taken during her high school years.

  3. From Toffee the cat: My old woman LOVED those pictures. She really likes old photographs. She says she’s looking forward to reading more posts in the future.

  4. Wonderful post. Particularly like the bio of her in the family newsletter. Quite accomplished, as are all your family members. Also please to be introduced to the Brownies’ Book — and excellent substitute for the sanitized Dick and Jane books I grew up with.

  5. Barbara sounds like she was a lovely lady, with an incredible mind. The Brownies’ Book sounds wonderful too, a lot more interesting than the early readers found in most schools in that era.

    1. The book wasn’t a school book, it was a magazine you could subscribe too outside of school. Although, apparently, schools and libraries also subscribed.

  6. Can’t bring myself to read this post, Kris. You know how close I was to Cardinal Nandi. But thanx for celebrating her life and special style.

        1. Oh, I see — whenever I make a comment, I’m supposed to supply my name an email address. Don’t recall having to do that before. Anyway, great work, Kris — as always.

  7. I love the 1927 photo – it reminds me of the book “Half Magic” which I enjoyed as a child where the children were playing on the footpath and exciting things happened. The 1928 photo looks as though it needs more of a story – I am curious 🙂

    1. “Half Magic” and the 3 books that are in that series are some of my favorites. I kept hoping I’d find a coin. And the illustrations were wonderful.

      There are quite a few photos taken that day in 1928. The whole family was on an outing. At Belle Isle or The Meadows. I think there was one shared yesterday on my father’s photo montage.

  8. Yes, Barbara definitely got taller than her brothers! As a tall person, I can understand how she hated it. How lucky to have someone remind her what a beautiful young woman she was!

    1. I used to be kind of tall, in my family anyway. In the last years I have shrunk though.

      I’m sure having Mrs. Chase convince her she wasn’t unattractive changed her life.

  9. What an amazing amount of research you have done for this, well done! It is really neat that your family has so much genealogical info.

    The Ruff Draft is an adorable name for a family newsletter. 🙂

    And 3 cheers for universal love and brotherhood–what a beautiful theme for a publication. Thank you for sharing your fascinating family history with us.

  10. I read the first piece in The Brownies’ Book and was surprised to find that it was written by W.E. B. DuBois. It is definitely didactic, but fascinating.
    It strikes me that The Ruff Draft wasn’t such a different enterprise, although yours was all in the family.

    1. She really came into her own when she became buyer and manager of the Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstores.

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