Category Archives: Cleages

Q – Quiet Hugh Clarence Cleage

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.

L – Louis Cleage

On back in his own handwriting: Mr. Louis Cleage age 11 1925

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.”

Click for more info on A-Z
Adult Writings by Louis Cleage

Dialogue in Poetry
The Illustrated News scroll down to see Smoke Rings by Louis Cleage
The Freedom Fight – scroll down to see Smoke Rings by Louis Cleage
Anti Police Brutality Demonstration – scroll down to see Smoke Rings by Louis Cleage
Kennedy Refuses to Support Civil Rights scroll down to see Smoke Rings by Louis Cleage

K – KEROSENE & Dr. Cleage – 1923

Kerosene Fired

When Poured on Boy.

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.

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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.

In 1923 Dr. Albert Cleage shared an office with Dr. Grimes at 4224 McGraw, above house next to Music store. The office was about half a mile from Joseph McAdoo’s home on McKinley.
Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr

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.

I – IDLEWILD -Cleage family visits

The Cleages and friends at Idlewild. My father, Albert in the back far left. Grandmother Pearl 3rd from left. Down front on the right, Barbara, Gladys and Henry. Grandfather standing behind Gladys. I think about 1925.

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.

The Cleage Family on vacation in Idlewild, Michigan about 1928. Left to right: Pearl Reed Cleage, Gladys, Louis back between, Hugh, Anna, Henry, Albert Jr, Barbara, Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr behind Barbara.

IDLEWILD

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.

The location of Idlewild is at “A”

H – HENRY Cleage in the 1920s

Henry 1920
Cousin: Front Henry and Hugh Cleage. Back: Albert Cleage, Hugh Reed/Averette, Thomas Reed/Averette, Louis Cleage. Indianapolis, IN. About 1922
Henry, Albert Jr, Albert Sr, Gladys. Eater Sunday about 1925.
"Barbara, Hugh and Henry Cleage"
Barbara, Hugh and Henry Cleage. Later than the last and earlier than the next photo.
Children of the Boule. Front: Henry, Barbara, Gladys, Anna Cleage. Behind them: Albert Jr, Louis, Hugh Cleage. I do not have the names of the rest right now. About 1928. The Meadows.
Henry and Albert about 1929

Henry Wadsworth Cleage was born March 22, 1916, six months after his family moved from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Detroit, Michigan. My poor grandmother! She seems to have always been pregnant when the family moved! Henry was born at home on 1355 24th Street, the 3rd of the 7 children of Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr and his wife Pearl Reed Cleage.

Between January and June of 1920, when Henry was 5 years old, the family moved 3 miles north to a large brick house at 6429 Scotten Ave.  My grandmother was pregnant with Barbara, her 5th child and first daughter, who was born in the new house. I remember my aunt Gladys telling me that all the girls were born in that house on Scotten, which you will get to see when we reach “S”.

Henry and his siblings attended Wingert Elementary school, a few blocks from the house. He built forts in the backyard with his brothers and neighborhood friends and told of riding his bike out Tireman to the country where they built campfires and roasted potatoes.  His paternal grandmother Celia Rice Cleage Sherman stayed with the family during that time. Henry was her favorite and she sometimes slipped him a nickle.

He attended McMichael Junior High School and then Northwestern High School.  While at Northwestern Henry played in the school orchestra and the All City Orchestra. He played school baseball and was on the 12-A dues committee.

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Here is another memory from the December 1990 Ruff Draft, a family newsletter we put out for 5 years.  My daughter Ayanna interviewed my Uncle Henry and wrote this from the interview. 

Henry Cleage remembers when his Aunt Gertrude won a nice new shiny bike.  He just knew she would give it to him for Christmas.  On Christmas Eve he was sitting in the living room with his father after the younger kids had gone to bed.  His father said, “Henry, go over to your Aunt’s and get that bike … for Hugh.”  Henry thought he would never enjoy Christmas again, but that, after seeing Hugh so happy with the bike, he decided it was all worth it.  Even so, he said that Christmas was never the same for him.  It had lost some of the magic.

G -Gladys Cleage born 1922

My grandmother Pearl Cleage holding my baby Aunt Gladys.

Gladys Helen Cleage, the sixth of the seven children of Albert B. and Pearl (Reed) Cleage, was born on September 29, 1922 at home on Scotten. Gladys attended Wingert Elementary School with her siblings when she turned six in 1928. She was eight years old when the decade ended.

My Aunt Gladys and I used to walk a mile in the evenings when we both lived in Idlewild in the 1980s. She told me that one year she had been sick so much that her father decided she would stay home the following school year. She was looking forward to it, but over the summer her health improved and she had to go to school after all.

Gladys also told me that she liked to play with dolls but neither of her sisters really cared for dolls so she would have to beg them to play, which happened rarely.

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.

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.

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

Henry Cleage 1916 – 1996

henry laugh sepia
Henry Cleage

Part 1

(The links will take you to posts I have written that give more details about his life.)

Henry Wadsworth Cleage was born March 22, 1916, six months after his family moved from Kalamazoo to Detroit, Michigan.  He was born at home on 1355 24th Street, the 3rd of the 7 children of Dr. Albert B. Cleage SR and his wife Pearl Reed Cleage. This was my first digression.  I went to look on Google Maps to see if the house was still there.  It wasn’t. There are mostly empty lots with a few houses scattered about. The house was located on the corner of 24th Street and Porter, a few blocks from the Detroit River And the Ambassador Bridge.

Between January and June of 1920, when Henry was 5 years old, the family moved 3 miles north to a large brick house on 6429 Scotten Ave.  My grandmother was pregnant with Barbara, her 5th child and first daughter, who was born in the new house. I remember my aunt Gladys telling me that all the girls were born in that house on Scotten.

Henry and his siblings attended Wingert Elementary school, a few blocks from the house. He built forts in the backyard with his brothers and neighborhood friends and told of riding his bike out Tireman to the country where they roasted potatoes in a campfire.  His father’s mother Celia Rice Cleage Sherman stayed with the family during that time.

He attended McMichael Junior High School and then Northwestern High School.  While at Northwestern he played in the school orchestra and the All City Orchestra, played school baseball and was on the 12-A dues committee.

After high school Henry attended Wayne University, getting his BA and then entered Law School at Wayne.   These posts talk about his life during those days Henry Cleage’s Journal 1936,  Follow up on Henry’s Diary.

Henry married Alice Stanton in 1941.  When WW2 started, Henry and his brother were conscientious objectors and moved to a farm in Avoca where they raised dairy cows and chickens.  Henry and Alice were divorced in 1943.

While on the farm, Henry wrote short stories and sent them out to various magazines of the day. None were published. I shared two of them earlier – Just Tell The Men – a short story by Henry Cleage and another short story Proof Positive. In 1947 Henry returned and completed Law School and began practicing in Detroit and Pontiac.

This ends part 1 of the life of Henry Cleage.

Note: You can find out more about Henry’s time as a conscientious objector in this post – Of Cows and Conscientious Objectors.