1300 Lafaytte – 1968

Pearl standing, me seated, my father. The photographer told us to look in that direction.

This is the 17th post in the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.   The next four  posts will be about some of the places that I lived that I didn’t cover in the Alphabet Challenge last year. Today I am going to remember 1300 Layfette, Detroit. My father, who was still using his name, Rev. A.B. Cleage lived here for a year during 1968-1969. I was a senior at Wayne State University.

In the aftermath of the 1967 riots my father had received many crazy letters, including death threats. Several people involved in the movement had been beaten or shot during this time period. There were also the more well known assassinations that took place.  I remember one sermon when my father announced that he had heard there was a price on his head and plans to kidnap him and hold him for ransom.  He told the congregation that if he was kidnapped, give them nothing for his return.  Strangely, I don’t remember worrying about this.

The flat on the left was the one my father lived in. The 12th floor is about half way up.
The flat on the left was the one my father lived in. The 12th floor is about half way up.

It was during this time that it was decided that he would move out of his first floor flat on Calvert, that had no security measures, and into the an apartment on the 12th floor of the very secure 1300 Lafayette apartments.

Here is a description written by Hiley H. Ward in his 1969 biography of my father, Prophet of the Black Nation, about the apartment and the atmosphere of the times.

“…He has continued to live alone, until recently in a twelfth-floor panoramic apartment ($360 a month, two bed-room) in the exclusive downtown eastside Lafayette Park overlooking the river, Detroit and Windsor, Canada. His church described his moving there as a security measure… in his immaculate apartment two of three paintings remain unhung after a number of months – not a sign of particular interest in the place.”

Several things I remember:

  • My father leaving my sister and me standing out in the hall while he went through the apartment with a drawn gun to make sure nobody was there.
  • The picture above being taken by a Detroit Free Press photographer for an article they were doing about my sister Pearl’s poetry for the Sunday magazine, Parade.
  • The time I spent a week with him while my mother and Henry went out of town. He went over to his mother’s house on Atkinson for dinner every night. I decided to just fix myself dinner. I did, but I left the tea kettle on and forgot about it. It melted on the burner. I still have a lump of the remains.  During this visit I was instructed to give no one the phone number or the address.

    All that remained of the tea kettle.
  • Watching the 4th of July fireworks.

I was trying to reconstruct the layout of the apartment from memory when I decided to look online.  Currently the same apartments are in use as co-op apartments and I was able to find the layout and placement at the website for the current cooperative apartments.

1300_apt_sixAt the same time that my father was living here, The Black Star Co-op  being developed.

10 thoughts on “1300 Lafaytte – 1968

  1. What interesting and dangerous times you lived in and how brave was your Dad – well done to him, for the change happened! Really interesting post – Thanks!

    1. Angela, I’m really glad you liked it and found it interesting. I wish my father was still around so I could talk to him about where we are today.

  2. Dear Kristin – Wow – that’s an amazing story for sure. Powerful memories indeed. I like the photo of your father with you and your sister. Writing memories of place is a great idea and I should do likewise.

    1. Alex, I’ve really found it to be a good exercise. I’ve moved around a lot and so writing about all the places I’ve lived or been closely connected to has given a sort of form to my life story so that if I were writing it, I could fit the other posts into them to fill it out.

  3. I am constantly blown away by your family’s stories. I wish I could buy this book online as it would be such an interesting read. What an incredible heritage you have! I’m astonished that you were quite sanguine about the risks to your father…either you caught his “vibe” or perhaps you didn’t quite believe it would happen. Amazing! we all have family stories that are interesting in their own ways, but yours are interesting from a wider world and history point of view.

    1. Wish you could buy the book online too! I’m getting more information organized all the time so maybe one day…

      I’m going to see my sister later today. I’m going to see how she felt during that time.

  4. Kris,

    Did you know that my Dad owns one of the units in 1300 Lafayette now? Interesting.

    1. I did know that. I believe it’s a 1 bedroom though. I had a cousin (on my mother’s side) who also lived at 1300. I went to visit her a few times but I always forgot to check and see if it was the same apt.

      1. Yes! And he pays a lot more than $360 for less space lol. How times change? I believe he is on the 11th floor.

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