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A-Z Challenge 2020 Montgomery Alabama News Items

E – ELECTION 1920

1920 was the first election that my grandmothers, Fannie Mae Turner Graham and Pearl Doris Reed Cleage, were able to vote. It was also the first election in which my grandfather Mershell C. Graham was able to vote. Before that election he lived in Alabama, where black people did not have the vote until the 1960s.

My grandfather Albert B. Cleage had been living in the north since 1907, and so would have been able to vote in the 1908, 1912, 1916 and 1920 elections.

Family members who still lived in Tennessee and Alabama, men or women, still could not vote in the 1920 election.

With all the voting rights and demonstrations happening during the 1960s, I cannot believe I never talked to my grandparents about how they felt when they could finally vote.

An article from the Detroit Free Press about the women’s vote.

The 1920 election seemed to be about as confused and contentious as today’s election.

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A-Z Challenge 2020 Detroit Grahams Photographs

D – DORIS Graham born 1923

Now we go to the maternal side of my family, the Grahams. My mother Doris Graham was born February 12, 1923, the third of the four children of Mershall and Fannie (Turner) Graham.

From mother Fannie’s Bible

“3rd baby – Doris J. Graham born February 12th – 1923. 5:10 a.m.- on Monday at Woman’s Hospital Beaubien and For(est) – (Detro)it Mic(h)”

Mary Virginia, Dad, Doris 1923
Mother, Doris 1924
Doris, Mary V, Mershell jr Feb. 1927
Grandmother Turner, Doris, Bonzo, Mary V., mother Fannie
Doris, Grandmother Turner, Howard, Mary V, back mother Fannie
Some of my mother, Doris Graham’s, memories of her childhood

About four blocks around the corner and down the street from Theodore was a vacant lot where, for some years ,they had a small carnival every year. I don’t remember the carnival at all. I never liked rides anyway. Not even the merry-go-round. But I remember it being evening, dark outside and we were on the way home. I don’t remember who was there except Daddy and I. He was carrying me because I was sleepy so I must have been very small. I remember my head on his shoulder and how it felt. The best pillow in the world. I remember how high up from the sidewalk I seemed to be. I could hardly see the familiar cracks and printings even when the lights from passing cars lighted things, which was fairly often because we were on Warren Ave. I remember feeling that that’s the way things were supposed to be. I hadn’t a worry in the world. I was tired, so I was carried. I was sleepy, so I slept. I must have felt like that most of my childhood because it’s still a surprise to me that life is hard. Seems that should be a temporary condition.

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1920 Census A-Z Challenge 2020 Cleages Detroit

C – CLEAGES in the 1920 Census

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

I got carried away writing about where my Cleages lived in the 1920 census. The pictured houses below are from Google maps. There were many houses gone. The red line goes from the house picture to the map version. Some houses did not have numbers and I could only guess where they were on the block, so no line.

Inside the Sanborn map, I put the head of household, his or her occupation, how many people lived in the house and their race. This information is from the 1920 census. My grandparents and their sons lived in the house in the red yard. Unfortunately, that is now a vacant lot. You can tell the shape and size of the house from the diagrams. My grandparents house was two stories with a porch across the front of the house. There was no garage or other building in the backyard.

In the 1920 Census 36 year old Albert B. Cleage was a physician working on his own account. He was born in Tennessee, as were both of his parents. His wife, Pearl was listed as 30, although she was actually closer to 34. She and her parents were born in Kentucky. She and her husband were literate. Although this was not on the census form, she was about three months pregnant with Barbara her 5th child.

There were four sons in the household. My father, Albert was eight. Louis was six. Both of them attended Hubbard elementary school, which is now gone. Henry was three years and nine months old, Hugh was one year and seven months old.

They owned their home, which was mortgaged, at 1355 24th Street in Detroit. Later that year all of the street numbers were changed and the number became 5237 24th St. This caused me some trouble in years past, before I knew the numbers changed and had placed the house in the wrong place. To learn more, click. Detroit Citywide Address Change

Everybody in the family was identified as “mu”, which stood for “mulatto”. This was the last census to designate people as “mu(latto)” or “B(lack)”. In the 1930 census, “Neg(ro) would be used for both.

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A-Z Challenge 2020 Cleages Detroit Photographs

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.

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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.

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A-Z Challenge 2020 Cleages Detroit

A – Albert B. Cleage Jr. in 1920s

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

This year for the A to Z Challenge, I am going back a hundred years to the 1920s and writing about what happened to my family during that decade. My grandparents had settled down to marriage and family and my parents and their siblings were too young to participate in any “roaring” that was going on. I start with my father, Albert B. Cleage Jr.

Albert B. Cleage Jr., the oldest of the seven children of Albert B. Cleage Sr and Pearl (Reed) Cleage, was eight years old when the 1920s began. When the decade ended, he was nineteen. During that decade he attended Wingert Elementary School through the 8th grade. He graduated from Northwestern High School in 1929 and went on to the College of the City of Detroit, as Wayne State University was known then.

Strange, but I don’t remember my father telling us any stories about growing up.

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Below are some memories of my father’s childhood taken from a biography by Hiley Ward written in 1969.

“I want to say to you, there was nothing funny when he was a small boy,” said Mrs. Cleage. “He was a serious little boy. He wore little white blouses and trousers, and was always with a book. The others were excavating the backyard, or wiring the back porch, or Louis would be greasing up something, and Albert reading. He was never happy-go-lucky.”

Why? “That’s the way God made him.” and for another reason, she suggested, “It might be that at a tender age when he should be happy, he saw practices concerning colored children and it took all the jolliness out of him.” His sister Barbara, who had come into the room, noted that experiences of seating in the predominantly white schools “were shattering, because they were usually asked to sit in the back of the room,” as Cleage himself recalls, and said Barbara “there were the lynching pictures in Crisis magazine – all had an effect on him.” They noted that Louis was a great builder and Albert, in “his white shirt and tie, and book under his arm, was good at art.”

Oscar Hand, the multi-faceted church official who is custodian for the Birney Annex school and tries his hand occasionally in politics on a school or county ballot, unsuccessfully, knew the Cleages since 1920…

Recalling their childhood (they lived two blocks apart, the Cleages at Scotten and Moore Place and the Hands at Hartford and Stanford), Toddy (my father’s nickname) never played, never engaged in sport activity with us. Henry was the athlete. I don’t remember Toddy participating in the games we did. There was never a reason why he didn’t play games – he was probably just not interested; he was always reading and always making plans for something for us to do.

“In the backyard we used to have a carnival, and all the Cleage brothers took part in it. Dr. (Louis) Cleage had a penny matching machine then; you paid to see how much shock you could take when you held on to a certain part of the car.” Then there was a marbles game. “If you grabbed the right marble, you won a pair of ice skates. Nobody would win; the marble was in the pocket. One big white boy wanted to win so badly he substituted one just like it as he pulled his hand out of the jar. We just about had a fight on the corner.” Cleage, who was lighter in weight than Oscar (Cleage is now 5 feet, 10 1/2 inches, 185 pounds, adding some weight after giving up smoking), used to challenge Oscar to a race and “he’d run faster, then sit on the porch to porch a point.”

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You can find more posts and photos about my father during the 1920s below:

Albert B. Cleage Jr., 8th Grader
Detroit School Boys about 1920
A Short Story – 1928
Northwestern High School – in the Band

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A-Z Challenge 2020 Cleages Detroit Grahams

A to Z REVEAL 2020

My mother Doris Graham and her older sister Mary Virginia Graham in 1929
A to Z

This year as we begin the 2020s, I decided to go back a hundred years to the 1920s and write about what happened to my family during that decade. My grandparents had settled down to marriage and family and my parents and their siblings were too young to participate in any “roaring” that was going on.

While preparing my posts, I found out several things that I wish I had asked my grandparents about, but strangely never thought to do so. I managed to cover all of the letters in the alphabet and to tie them in with my family in some way. I actually started in February to decide on the words for each letter and to chose photographs. In March I started writing the posts. The plan is to be completely done by the time I post this.

Click to go to A to Z website