The Cleages in the 1930s

The Cleage family about 1930 in front of their house on Scotten. From L to R Henry, Louis, (My grandmother) Pearl, Barbara, Hugh, Gladys, Anna, Albert Jr (My father) and (My grandfather) Albert Sr.

The 1930 Census

Dated April 2, 1930

In 1930 the Cleage family lived on the Old West Side in Detroit, Michigan. In this neighborhood everybody was identified as Neg(ro) in the 1930 Census.

The trickle of Black people living outside of Black Bottom would grow exponentially in the decade following the Sweet trials. By the late 1930s, middle class African Americans are firmly ensconced in four other neighborhoods in Detroit:

Paradise Valley – the business and entertainment district north of Black Bottom in the area now occupied by Ford Field, Comerica Park, 36th District Court and the Chrysler Freeway

Conant Gardens – the northeast neighborhood between Conant & Ryan (west and east) and 7 Mile & Nevada (north and south),

The North End – the neighborhood situated Woodward (west), the city of Hamtramck (east) E. Grand Boulevard (south) and the city of Highland Park (north),

And the Old Westside – bounded by Grand River (East), Buchanan (South), Tireman (North) & Epworth (West).

However, those 4 neighborhoods primarily opened up for middle class Black Detroiters.” 

A Mighty Long Way: How Black People Moved In & Out and Around Detroit

On the enumeration sheet with the Albert and Pearl Cleage family were 50 people in six houses in seven households. Five had a few lodgers, five had extended family members – sibling, parents, cousins. All seven had radios. All of the houses were owned by people living there. One of the houses had another family renting part of their house.

There were 34 adults on the page. 30 of them had been born in the south.  One was born in Canada, one was born in Iowa and two were born in Michigan. They are all literate.  Three of the men were vets of World War 1. Ten were not vets. One of the men was an employeer. He was a contractor. Two worked on their own account, a barber and my grandfather, a physician . Eighteen people worked for wages.  Five women worked outside of the home. Three were married, one was divorced and one was single.

All of the children under 18 were born in Michigan. There were two eighteen year olds. One was born in Michigan and one was born in Alabama.  All of the school age children, including the two eighteen year olds, were attending school. 

Fifty people in the six houses on this enumeration sheet.
These are the houses where the families enumerated on this Census sheet lived.

The Albert and Pearl Cleage Family

My grandparent’s parents, my great grandparents, were born into slavery.  My grandfather was born in 1883 in Louden Tennessee. He was 46 when the 1930 census was taken. He was a physician working on his own account, that is he had his own office at 4224 McGraw, which was some blocks from the house.  He and Pearl Reed had married when he was 27.   Although it says Pearl was 21 when they married, she was actually 26.  She was born in Kentucky and did not work outside of the home.

They had seven children and all were still living at home and attending school. My father, Albert B. Cleage Jr. was the oldest and had been born in Indianapolis. He was eighteen. He had graduated from Northwestern High School in 1929 and was attending what is now Wayne State University.

Louis was sixteen and attended Northwestern High School.  Henry was fourteen and also at McMichael Junior High or Northwestern. Hugh was eleven and probably still at Wingert Elementary school. Barbara was nine, Gladys was seven and Anna was five. All three would have been attending Wingert Elementary. Anna was in kindergarten and only attended half a day.

Albert’s mother, Anna Celia Sherman lived with them and is listed as 76. She was born in Tennessee.  She died the following month after suffering a stroke. Her body was taken back to Athens for burial.

Two of Albert’s brothers lived in Detroit in 1930. One, Jake, lived several blocks from the house on Scotten. The other, Henry, lived further away although by 1940 he was in the neighborhood too.

The Cleages through the 1930s with news of the day

Cleage Posts from the 1930s

Scotten, Detroit – Paternal grandparents 1919 – 1948
Dr. Cleage Made City Physician – 1930 Detroit, MI
Uncle Hugh with friends George and Paul Payne
Celia’s Death Certificate – 1930
On the way to bury their mother… June 1930
James Cleage 1870 – 1933
Northwestern High School & Cleage Graduates – 1931-1939
Trying for shadows in this also? 1930s
Albert and Pearl Cleage late 1930s
Henry’s Journal 1936
Henry’s Diary Part 2 – 1936
Follow up on Henry’s Diary 1936
4 Men In Hats On Ice 1936
The Cleage Sisters at Home about 1937
Looking Over the Fence 1937
Mary Virginia Graham – Social Reporter – 1937
Albert B. Cleage Jr – Album Page – 1938
Grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage
Dr. & Mrs. Cleage Speak on Preventing Juvenile Delinquency – 1938
Thanksgiving 1939 – speaking at Plymouth Congregational Church
Where is Gladys?  – 1939
Hugh Fishing At the Meadows 1939
‘Rocco, Smitty – Getting a ticket for fishing! – 1939
Thanksgiving 1939

6 thoughts on “The Cleages in the 1930s

  1. What a great summary of the lives of the Cleages! I have often read the details on a census sheet, finding out who had what profession, and who could read and write. This is so interesting to see the homes as well!

      1. Thanks for reading. I hope you got a glimpse of what Mississippi slavery was like for my family and the plantation community. In reading your blog over the years I have learned so much about your family. The special insight you continue to give into your father’s life (whom I have followed since the 60s) and the Detroit community, is a big part of the history of the Black struggle in America. I’m sure that was a part of your purpose for blogging, and you have done an admirable job.

        1. I started blogging to share my findings on my mother’s family. Specifically the Eliza for whom this blog is named. At that time that was the branch I knew the most about and that I wanted to learn more about. In the 11 years since then I’ve branched out and learned so much I never expected to know.

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