Anna Cecelia Cleage was born on January 29, 1925. The youngest of the seven children of Albert and Pearl Cleage, she was named after her paternal grandmother, Anna Celia Rice Cleage Sherman. Anna was born at home in the house on Scotten, as were all the Cleage girls,.
Trouble in Detroit the year that Anna was born
By 1925 Detroit’s total population was growing faster than any other Metropolitan area in the United States, the black population was over 82,000. Housing segregation was widespread, although there were neighborhoods such as the East Side neighborhood where the Grahams lived that black and white lived together without friction. Unfortunately that was not the story citywide as people began to try and move out of the designated black areas into the other neighborhoods. Families moving into homes they had purchased were met by violent mobs that numbered from the hundreds into the thousands. This happened in 1925 during April, June, twice in July and in September.
Ossian Sweet was physician in Detroit. He is most notable for his self-defense in 1925 of his newly purchased home in a white neighborhood against a mob attempting to force him out of the neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, and the subsequent acquittal by an all-white jury of murder charges against him, his family, and friends who helped defend his home, in what came to be known as the Sweet Trials.In the years after the trial in Detroit, his daughter Iva, wife Gladys, and brother Henry all died of tuberculosis. Ossian Sweet himself eventually committed suicide
What better “X” word than “X-ray”? I googled X-ray and 1920 and found the following video about x-rays being used in shoe stores at that time. They show a shoe that they said cramps the toes. I found a similar pair of shoes on my Aunt Ola Cleage in the photo above.
Three of my grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage’s sisters lived in Benton Harbor with their families. My grandmother lived in Detroit. This situation called for regular visits between Detroit and Benton Harbor, Michigan.
My uncle Henry shared some of his memories of Mr. Mullins in the 1990s. “Mullins was always referred to that way. He was a very stern, hardy type. Admired the Irish. Had the long Irish upper lip himself. A very ‘Indian’ looking fellow. They lived in Benton Harbor and later moved to Detroit.
‘Sir Walter Lipton’, that’s the only kind of tea he’d drink. Rather, whatever kind he drank was that. He’d be talking about only drinking ‘Sir Walter Lipton’, and when he finished, Minnie would tell him, “Oh, Mullin, hush up! You know that’s Salada Tea.” When he moved to Detroit with his family the last time they figured he was 90 something years old. He died one day walking from Tireman all the way downtown. I think he just fell out. Like the old one horse shay, he just give out.“
Henry continued, “Aunt Minnie would talk a lot of trash. She said he’d sit down with a bottle of wine and eat all the food, talking a lot of trash about he was a working man, he needed his strength and the rest of them were all starving to death. All that was Aunt Minnie’s talk. We never heard his side of it. They lied on him and he never defended himself. They never made fun of him because he’d a beat everybody’s brains out. He never found it necessary to say anything. I think Aunt Minnie embellished the truth because I know we went there and tore up his lawn, his pride and joy, and he didn’t say anything much. He had a grape arbor. We (Me, Hugh, Bill and Harold), had a tent out there. We’d get to wrestling and tear up the tent and the grapes and he didn’t say anything. Probably crippled Bill and Harold after we left because they should have known better, we were just kids.”
I found quite a number of short news items mentioning the family trips. They were not nearly as entertaining as Henry’s stories.
Dr. and Mrs. A. B. Cleage Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Cleage, Henry Cleage and Miss Helen Mullins, of Detroit, Miss Virginia Lane and Mrs. Josie Cleage of Indianapolis, Ind. and Clarence Reed of Chicago, who have been guest of Mrs. Minnie Mullins, of Broadway, have returned home. The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) – 13 Jul 1923, Fri – Page 4
It sounds like they had a real family party.
Dr. and Mrs. A.B. Cleage – my grandparents Mrs. Jacob Cleage, wife of my grandfather’s brother Jacob. Henry Cleage – my grandfather’s brother. Miss Helen Mullins – my grandmother’s sister Minnie’s oldest daughter. Miss Virginia Lane – not a family member. Clarence Reed – my grandmother’s brother. Mrs. Jossie Cleage – my grandfather’s sister who married a Cleage from another branch. Mrs. Minnie Mullins – my grandmother’s sister
Mrs. Minnie Mullins and small son, John of Broadway, have gone to Detroit to visit the former’s sister, Ms. A. B. Cleage, who is ill. The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) – 14 Jan 1925, Wed – Page 4
Dr. A. B. Cleage and family, of Detroit, have returned home following a week’s visit with Mr. and Mrs. James Mullins, of Broadway. The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) – 6 Sep 1927, Tue – Page 4
Dr. Albert B. Cleage and family of Detroit, have returned home after a weeks visit with Mr. and Mrs. James Mullins on Broadway. The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) – 30 Aug 1928, Thu – Page 4
The Cleage family moved from 24th street to 6429 Scotten Ave. in 1920, between January and July 10. I visited this house once when I was about 22 months old. My parents and I traveled by train to Detroit for a visit. At that time my father was pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. I remember nothing about that visit, unfortunately. I never asked my father or my aunts and uncles to describe the house for me. Luckily someone took a front and side view of the house and there were some photographs taken inside the house, not necessarily in the 1920s.
In 1930 the house was worth $10,500, according to the census. By 1940, it was only worth $5,000. Perhaps because they were just coming out of the depression in 1940? It was a large brick house and I’m sure they filled it up with seven children, two parents and a couple of dogs. I think that the boy’s rooms were in the attic. I will share some photographs of the house over the years. They lived there until 1948 when they moved to Atkinson Street.
In 1920 my great grandmother Celia Rice Cleage Sherman lived with her son Edward and his family in Athens, Tennessee. She was 64 years old and could read but not write. She was not working for pay. She was married but her husband was living in North Carolina with his daughter. By June he was dead of tuberculosis of the bowels, apparently a difficult disease to diagnose and treat.
Edward Cleage was the head of the household. He was 38 years old, literate, owned his own house and was a barber operating his own shop. Mattie Dotson, his wife, was 32 years old. She was literate and did not work outside of the home. They had four daughters, Alberta 11 and Helen 9 were attending school. Ola was 3 and a half and the baby, Gertrude Beatrice was only a month old.
Mattie’s brother Walter Dotson and his family lived next door. He was 39 and taught in the public school. He also owned his own home free of mortgage. His wife Flora did not work outside of the home. They had three children, Lincoln who was 6, Rosalia was 3 8/12 and Eugene was 4/12. Both households were described as “mulatto.
On this same census page there were seven older people who lived alone because of being widows or widowers. One of them was Amanda Cleage, a widow who at 73 was still supporting herself as a laundress from her home. She rented her place and was unable to read or write. I feel that I know Amanda quite well after doing an in depth investigation of her a year or so ago. It was like seeing an old friend to find her one of my great grandmother’s neighbors.
William Wilcox and his neighbor George Pinson were both identified as black. Both worked as hotel waiters for wages. Both were literate. George Pinson was a widower. William Wilcox’s wife, Vester did not work outside of the home.
Herbert Vanburen and his wife Annie rented their home. He worked as a far laborer on his own account and Annie Vanburen took in laundry. They had seven children. The oldest, Winnie was 19 and was a looper at a hosery mill. A looper was given a finished sock without the toe portion. She placed it into a machine that would attach the toe using several needles and thread, and it would come out looking as if the whole sock was one piece.
The next four children, ages 14 to 8 attended school. The youngest two were six year old twins and not yet in school. Everyone who was old enough was literate and everybody was described as mulatto.
Other single people were 67 year old Rosa Baker who was a widow, illiterate and did not have employment. Charles Reynolds owned his house free of mortgage, was literate and did general laboring on his own account. He was 54. Louise Wilds was 61, a widow and could read but not write. She took in laundry on her own account. They were all described as black.
Forty six year old Low and his wife Ida Lillard, forty three, lived on the other side of the Cleages. They rented their house. He could read but not write. She was literate. Low and his oldest son, twenty year old Clarence both worked as laborers on the railroad. The two youngest children were six and five, too young for school. The family was described as black.
Henry Lattimer was 41 and worked as a laborer in construction. His wife Vonnie was 32 and did not work outside of the home. They were both literate. He was described as black. Vonnie and the six children were described as mulatto. The oldest son, Leake, was 19 and like his father worked as a construction laborer. Sixteen year old Cleona had attended school in the past year was literate and worked as a knitter at a hosiery Mill. The 10 year old and 7 year old attended school. The two youngest were under three.
There were two white families living nearby. Both of them rented. Bose Gregary was literate, although his wife was not. He worked as a driver for a grocery store. His wife didn’t work outside of the home. Their oldest three children attended school. The younger two were too young.
Alfred Wilcox was also white. He and his wife were not literate. He also worked as a driver for a grocery store for wages. I wonder if the two families were connected, but I am running late here with no time to look into that. His wife didn’t work outside of the home. They had four children. The oldest were 8 and 7 and not yet in school. The youngest two were under three.
Hugh Clarence Cleage was born at home June 2, 1918 in the house on 24th Street. He was the fourth son and also the fourth child of the Cleages. Hugh was named after two of his mother’s brothers. He was 20 months old when 1920 started and almost 13 years old when the decade ended.
Like his siblings, Hugh attended Wingert elementary school, McMichael Junior High and Northwestern High School. But that was in the 1930s. I know he liked to fish and skate and play tennis and was kind and patient and could fix things. Some of these skills must have been practiced during his young years.
Strangely, I don’t know any stories about Hugh as a young child. He was the quiet one who was right there in all of the activities going on, but his siblings were just more forthcoming with stories and he probably couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Maybe some of my cousins will read this and share stories they may have about Hugh as a young boy.
Louis Jacob Cleage was the third of Albert and Pearl Cleage’s seven children. He was born in Kalamazoo Michigan in 1913 before the family moved to Detroit. During the 1920s Louis went from age 7 to age 17. He attended Wingert Elementary school and Northwestern High School. Later he went on to Medical School and went into practice with his father.
Louis loved to tinker with things and build contraptions, some of which were used at the fairs they put on in the backyard. At one time he wanted to be an engineer but that was a difficult profession for a black man in those days and so he became a doctor.
In the book “Prophet of the Black Nation” (published byPilgrim Press, 1969) a biography of my father Albert B. Cleage, by Hiley Ward, wrote on page 77:
Louis-now the M.D. – could write short papers. Louis just put it down, but you can’t grade this son (note: she was talking about Albert) by his younger brother’s method.“
Mrs. Cleage, the 81 year old matriarch, watched me closely as I wrote down her words. “I feel sorry for parents raising colored children,” she said, “for so many don’t have the fight like I do.” Perhaps I grinned a little at this point, in admiration of the energy of this tremendous lady still full of the old vinegar for her sons. “You smile, but you don’t know,” she said. “You have to do something in a country like the United States.”
She did the same with all her youngsters. “Louis was brokenhearted when he got a C in chemistry. So I went to his counselor.’You come with me,’ I told him. ‘I’m taking him out of that class. I can’t have a child ruined by a man who hates colored people.’ I took him to another class, and the new teacher was amazed – he was an A student all along.”
On page 48 we read old family friend Oscar Hand describe “In the backyard we used to have a carnival, and all the Cleage brothers took part in it. Dr. (Louis) Cleage had a penny machine then; you paid to see how much shock you could take when you held on to a certain part of the car.”
Three Lads Attack Detroit Youngster in Alley and Endeavor to Kill Him
Special Dispatch to the Enquirer
Detroit, Mich., Aug 16. – The police are investigating a report made by a boy , who is recovering from serious burns in Receiving hospital, that he was attacked by three older boys in an alley, doused with kerosene and set afire.
The boy is Joseph McAdoo, 10 years old. He did not give the names of the three who he said attacked him, or tell the cause of the attack. He said however, that two of the boys held him while a third poured kerosene on his face and ignited it with a match. The alley is behind his home.
Joseph was seen running with his head on fire toward his home, and a neighbor called Dr. Albert B. Cleage, after extinguishing the flames.
The boy will recover, although his face, head, neck, shoulders and one hand were injured painfully.
It was first feared Joseph might lose the use of his eyes.
Joseph told detectives of Scotten Station who were assigned to the case today that he was looking for wooden boxes in the alley when the attack took place. He gave the officers a description of the three.
BOY, 10 BURNED, ACCUSES OTHERS
Police Doubt Story Oil Was Poured on Victim.
Receiving hospital physicians Thursday were skeptical regarding the story told by 10-year-old Joseph McAdoo, 5424 McKinley avenue, suffering burns about the neck and shoulders, who, after being brought to the hospital, Tuesday, said that three boys whom he met in an alley in the rear of his home drenched his clothing with kerosene and set it afire.
Police of Vinewood station said Thursday that no investigation of the boys story is being made.
McAdoo, a Negro lad gave questioners at the hospital a description of the alleged assailants but furnished no details by which they could be located in the neighborhood of his home.
Mrs. Lucy McAdoo, the boy’s mother, was away from home at the time her son suffered the burns. A neighbor summoned a doctor, who called an ambulance and had the boy removed to Receiving hospital.
Joseph Youles McAdoo was the oldest of nine children. In the 1920 census (three years before this incident) he was seven years old and attended school. There were three younger children ages five, almost two and 3 months . The family lived in a rented house in Hamtramck, Wayne County, Michigan, a small city surrounded by Detroit. Joseph’s father worked as a laborer in a can factory. His mother did not work outside of the home in 1920. The baby of three months died six months later of pneumonia. There were eventually nine children in the family.
Joseph had two years of high school before he began to work for a grocer. He eventually became a butcher. Over the years he was married and divorced several times. There were two step children.
On his WWII draft card, he was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 140 pounds, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. His only feature that they mentioned was “high cheek bones.”There was no mention of any scars from the burns in his childhood.
On October 18, 1987 Joseh MacAdoo died in Detroit, Michigan. His death certificate was not available online so I do not know what he died of. He was 75 years old.
My grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage, did not think much of Idlewild vacations when her children were growing up, because she still had to do all the cooking, washing and other chores she did at home, but without the familiar home tools. Everybody else loved it and they probably went out on the water in a row boat and went swimming and fishing and visiting friends. Maybe the older ones went to dances. While Grandmother cooked and washed and did the usual. I hope she also had time to sit outside and relax. They rented houses until the 1940s when Louis Cleage built a cottage.
I remember my grandmother reading to us from the book “Told Under the Red Umbrella” the summer of 1953. The electricity went off during a storm and she read to us by the kerosene lamps until the lights came back on. During that trip I am sure my mother and aunts did the cooking.
Beginning in 1915, African Americans from throughout the country, particularly the Midwest, came to Idlewild in the summer. During the early years the resort offered beaches, boating, and other typical summer diversions. By the 1920s and into the 1960s, however, Idlewild’s rousing nightlife lured swarms of viitors to the community to see elaborate floorshows and some of America’s most popular black entertainers. the Arthur Braggs Idlewild Revue toured the country during the off-season, spreading the Idlewild name. The 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act – comprehensive legsation that prohibits segregation- opened doors for blacks to stay at previously whites-only resorts. Idlewild’s heyday ended, but it remained the largest African American resort in the nation.