Louis Cleage Responds Poetically to “Two Songs” by Gary Grimshaw
During the 1960s, my uncles owned and operated Cleage Printers. It was what was known as a “job printer,” meaning that it didn’t print books, but rather printed handbills for neighborhood markets and flyers, newsletters, magazines and pamphlets for various radical groups, including the black nationalist Group on Advanced Leadership (GOAL), the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Detroit Artists Workshop, a countercultural collaborative.
The printing plant was a place where people came to find discussion of the issues of the day and there were plenty of issues to discuss. My uncle Henry loved to hold forth on a variety of topics and his arguments were always well thought out and convincing. Hugh didn’t talk a lot, but he would have something to put in, maybe just a quiet shake of his head over what Henry was saying.
Their brother Louis Cleage was a doctor and his office was about 10 feet in front of the printing plant. When he came back, he would join in with his sarcastic comments and distinctive laugh. And surprising to me, my uncle Louis wrote poetry.
On Oct. 6, 2019, my good friend historian Paul Lee, who likes to consider himself an “honorary Cleage,” sent me an email with a copy of a poem that my uncle Louis had written.
I was so surprised because with all of Louis’ talents, I never knew that he wrote poetry. I immediately began to search for the poems that he was responding to, which were written by Detroit graphic artist and radical political activist Gary Grimshaw.
After Googling and looking for Work 4, where Grimshaw’s poems appeared, I found that the Flickr photostream of “jwc 3o2” (Canadian “cultural factotum” jw curry) had a copy of the cover (designed by Grimshaw) and wrote to ask him if he had the whole work and could send me a copy of the poems. He very kindly dug out his copy of Work 4, made a copy of the poems and sent them to me. You can see the cover and the poems by both Grimshaw and Louis below.
Two Songs by Gary Grimshaw
You’ve made your responsibilities To wash your car and mow your lawn While I’ve made mine To stay excited about being alive And you don’t understand Why I won’t stay home
Without seeing it happen You’ve slipped into the norm While I’ve kept my eyes open For the pleasure of new things And you don’t understand Why I am different from the rest
In the name of reason You’ve drained the joy from life While I make mistakes Because I won’t listen to advice From a dying generation And you wonder why I stare at the floor when you speak August 2
“Prove yourself!” yells the Queen of Morality In her castle on the hill of broken dreams “But there’s nothing to prove!” I yell back From my midnight ancient cellar As the King slips off to the prison factory.
The Queen’s daughters know the virtue of work They dream of an effortless struggle Against inactivity and doubt Carried on in calm organization Won by merciless repression.
The King once was young, like me I often think of him this way Before he volunteered to die His funeral went unnoticed In the steady hum of the factory Where he surrendered to Chief Reason And succeeding days drove out whim and fancy Leaving him with What Is and nothing more What Is, the terrible master. August 12
A Comment on “Two Songs by Gary Grimshaw“
I heard your song, my son so clear and yet so lonely in the night. The enchantment of its melancholy beauty Transported me through space and time to moon-lit waters of a blue lagoon.
In the quiet of the night, a golden maiden played a dulcimer. A nightingale sang a song of youth and beauty that stirred my senses with such violence as to test the very sinews that bound me to my reason. I was once again the young King in the timeless land. The golden maiden was my queen.
Though now, we are as strangers when we meet, I understand that you are different from the rest. In the quiet of the night, when the beauty of your song stirs my heart, My lonely soul cries out to you, my son, —-for understanding.
Louis J. Cleage, M.D. Detroit 3/27/67
Header photograph is of the Cleage Clinic (front brick building) with Cleage Printers (gray cement block building) in the back. I photoshopped it from a Google Maps view from July 2009.
I would like to thank Paul Lee for the additional information that he sent me, which I have incorporated into this post.
I never realized how sociable my mother and other family members of her generation were until I started reading the social items in The Detroit Tribune. I first found this photograph in the family photographs of my mother, (center back row), her sister Mary Vee (seated on the floor), and my father’s sister Barbara seated on the couch to the far right. I also recognized my uncle Bud (Frank Elkins) who later married Mary Vee and a few family friends. I wondered what sociable things they did and when I found the following items in the Tribune, I found out.
No wonder my mother worried that I wasn’t social enough.
“The Social Sixteen Club met at the residence of Gladys and Walter House, Monday, Dec. 27. Plans were completed for the club’s New Yea’s Eve swing, which was held on December 31. Following the completion of these plans, members turned their attention to the refreshments and dancing, both of which were enjoyed. Later in the evening, the crowd went out to Bob Johnson’s home on Montclair, where they had a grand time. These young folk included Jean Johnson Howard Tandy, Shirley Turner, Lewis Graham, Bob Douglas, Bud Elkins, Connie Stowers, Jack Franklin, Jack Barthwell, Vee Graham.”
“Members of the Social Sixteen Club feel that they will have pleasant sailing, under the pilotship of their winsome new president Doris Graham, talented daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham of Theodore avenue. Miss Graham is very popular among the “teen-age” set and is an honor student at Eastern High School.”
“The Social Sixteen Club held its latest meeting at the home of Mrs. Christine Smoot. After the completion of business, a repast was served by the hostess. The next meeting will be held at the residence of Miss Barbara Cleage, on Scotten avenue. At this meeting, they will render a program as follows; vocal solo, Christine Smoot; tap dance, Shirley Turner and Connie Stowers. The newly-elected officers of the club are; Doris Graham, president; Howard Tandy, vice president and corresponding secretary; Bob Johnson, secretary-treasurer.”
This post covers the time from my father’s ordination, my parent’s marriage and the few months they spent in Lexington, Kentucky at Chandler Memorial Church. Click the link to learn more about the history of Chandler.
The news items below were transcribed from The Detroit Tribune (Detroit) and Colored Notes, The Sunday Herald-Leader (Lexington, Kentucky). Click the photographs to enlarge or to go to the websites where I found them.
Thursday February 4, 1943 Albert B. Cleage ordained at Plymouth Congregational Church, Detroit, Michigan, by Rev. Horace White.
October 2, 1943 Rev. Albert B. Cleage of Detroit, Mich., will preach at the Chandler Memorial church at 11 o’clock Sunday morning.
Sunday, Nov. 7, 1943 Chandler Memorial church worship and sermon, 11 a. m., preaching by the Rev. A. Rice, Sunday school 12:15; Y. P. meeting at 6 p. m. The annual “harvest-home” ingathering will be held Nov. 21-22 Donations may be forwarded, or call 1356-X. Roger Stewart chairman. The new pastor, the Rev. A. B. Cleage will take charge Nov. 21.
November 14, 1943 Chandler Memorial church, worship and sermon, 11 a. m., preaching by the Rev. A. Rice. Sunday school 12:15. Special program at 3:30 p. m., sponsored by Mrs. Louise Newman. Participants are Prof. W. T. Seals, Miss Hattie Lee, L. D. Mills, William Smith and Prof. W. J. Black. The annual “harvest home” ingathering will be held No. 21-22. Donation may be forwarded or call 1356-X. Roger Stewart, chairman. The new pastor, the Rev. A. B. Cleage of Detroit will take charge next Sunday.
Friday, Nov. 19, 1943 The Rev. A. B. Cleage of Detroit, new pastor of the Chandler Memorial Congregational Christian church, 548 Georgetown Street, will take charge Sunday morning.
Sunday, Nov 21, 1943 Chandler Memorial church, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, pastor; worship and sermon 11 a. m., preaching by the pastor. Sunday school, 12:15, Young people’s meeting, 6 p.m. Theme of the morning sermon will be “Fruits of the Spirit.” The annual “harvest home” service will open today. All members and friends are urged to be present. Harvest home sale at 8 o’clock Monday night at the church.
Tuesday, Nov 30, 1943 Regular business meeting will be held Wednesday night at Chandler Congregational church, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., minister.
Sunday, Dec 5, 1943 Chandler Memorial Congregational Church, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., pastor: worship and sermon 11 a.m., theme, “The Messianic Hope;” music by the choir, Miss Pearl Blackburn, director; vocal solo, Prof. W. J. Black; saxophone solo, Prof. William Smith. Sunday school 12.15; Young People’s meeting, 6 p. m. The pastor is preaching a series of pre-Christmas sermons.
Sunday, December 12, 1943 Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., minister: worship and sermon 11 a. m., theme, “The Sin of Selfishness.” Sunday school, 12:15; Endeavor, 6 p. m. Important announcement by the trustees. All members asked to be present. The pastor is preaching a series of sermons dealing with the birth of Christ and its meaning or the individual.
Sunday, Dec. 26, 1943 The Chandler Memorial church, 548 Georgetown street, The Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr. will preach his Christmas sermon from the subject, “Star Of Bethlehem.” The choir will render special Christmas music, and Mrs. Louise Newman will be featured as soloist, Sunday school and Christian Endeavor will meet as usual.
December 12, 1943
January 2, 1944 Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. A. B. Cleage, minister: worship and sermon, 11 a. m., theme, “The Pentecost of Calamity.” Sunday school, 12:15; Endeavor, 6:30 p. m. The church annual meeting will be held Wednesday night at 8 o’clock.
January 7, 1944
January 9, 1944 Chandler Memorial church, Rev. Albert B Cleage, minister; Worship and sermon 11 A. M., theme “Winning the Peace;” Sunday school 12;15; Y. P. meeting at 6:30 p.m. Communion service. Business meeting to elect church treasurer.
January 16, 1944 Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. A. B. Cleage, minister: worship and sermon, 11 a.m., theme, “Bitter Fruit;” Sunday school, 12:15 p. m.; Endeavor 6 p. m.
Saturday, January 29, 1944 The Rev. Albert B. Cleage, who recently resigned as pastor of the Chandler Congregational church, left Wednesday for San Francisco, Calif.
January 29, 1944 Toddy and Doris Cleage are due in from Lexington, KY this week. They have been there since their marriage in November. The young couple found the South’s dyed in the wool policy of segregation and oppression of Negroes most distasteful, and were glad when Toddy received a call to pastor a church in California. So they too will head for the Golden West.
This is a transcription of a feature article that appeared in the black-owned Detroit Tribune, October 29, 1955. The archive of the Tribune can be found on the Library of Congress Web site “Chronicling America.” Follow this link to see the actual articleThe Detroit Tribune. I have added photographs from my family archive and corrected typos. Please do not reuse without permission and linking to this blog. Thank you.
(Editor’s Note: Due to the hugeness of this area, the Tribune is forced to publish this series in two parts. The second part will appear at a later date.)
The Tribune’s “Neighborhood of the Week” is a feature series designed to afford people who generally are not in the news an opportunity for expression and publicity.
This is the sixth area to be covered by the TRIB in Metropolitan Detroit. And by some standards is considered as the “most fabulous.”
Called Gold Coast
Nicknamed as the “Gold Coast,” because of its richly furnished and lavish homes, this new neighborhood was a direct result of the outlawing of restrictive covenants. It literally sprang-up during and after World War II when the city was jammed with defense workers, and was practically bursting at the seams. Old homes are being torn down to make room for the new expressway system and new housing projects. And old Detroiters had to have some place to go.
So, they invaded this area north of West Grand Boulevard and west of Woodward.
Each time the Negro population has to expand, in this and most U.S. cities, there is always the question of where are they going. The problem of dislocation and securing of housing was also true in this case, excepting that integration was prevalent as another problem.
Nevertheless, those who were dislocated, evicted or homeless moved into the “Gold Cost” area from all points over the city. This ingress was so fast that this section is hailed as the fastest developed in modern Detroit history.
What were the consequences of this swift development? As usual, your roving Tribune reporter will take you along with him and find out, visiting the churches, the business places and the “average resident” and let them tell you of their fabulous neighborhood.
Let’s stop the young and dynamic minister of the Central Congregational Church, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.
Since their (the congregation) activities for the day were a fine reflection on the residents of the area, we think their project “Work Day For Christ” should be publicized.
The Junior and Senior Fellowships of the church with the slogan, “Being Christian Means Helping Others.” And they carried out this slogan to the highest as each member contributed a full-day of labor to their world-wide missions on Saturday.
Here is how they were scheduled:
After breakfast at the parsonage at 8 a.m., they worshiped for about 45 minutes before starting to work at odd jobs, such as car washing, holding a bake sale, raking leaves, washing windows and others.
They reported back to the parsonage at 12:30 for a box lunch, then at 1:30 p.m. completed or started on other odd jobs until 5 o’clock when they went for supper, returning at 7 p.m. for a two hour workers party in the parsonage.
Full-Day of Work
This was really a full day for the youths, but they seemed to enjoy it with enthusiasm and eagerness to complete more than two or three jobs during the day.
The Youth Fellowship is geared “to make real demands upon their time, abilities and talents … we accept only those young people who are willing to participate in the total program.
“Young people who are interested only in recreational and social activities can find other organizations and clubs designed to serve their needs.”
Thus, partially reads a somewhat of a preamble for the youth to follow in pushing the church program which has three basic areas of Christian Living, meaning Faith, Action and Fellowship.
More than two hundred young people enrolled in the church’s Junior and Senior Fellowships contributed a day’s labor to raise funds for Congregational Christian World Missions.
A breakfast for the young people was served by a committee of mothers in the recreation room of the spacious church parsonage at 2254 Chicago Blvd.
Mrs. Eleanor Hughes served as chairman and was assisted by Mrs. Julian P. Rogers, Jr., Mrs. Marie Scruggs and Mrs. Barbara Martin.
The breakfast closed with a service of worship and consecration conducted by the Faith Commissions of the two organizations. Participating were Miss Phyllis Hughes, Miss Andree Keneau, James Gilliam, Jr., and Miss Sharon Allen.
The Car-Wash was held at the home of Miss Beverly Baker, 11340 LaSalle Blvd., and parents, church members and residents of the community kept the cars coming from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
While the car-wash workers, under direction of Curtis Faire, were keeping their production line moving, the Bake-sale and odd- committees were conducting door to door canvasses.
The seemingly inexhaustible supply of baked goods was sold out by two o’clock.
The odd-job brigade raked leaves, took down screens and put up storm windows, scrubbed floors, cleaned basements, washed dishes, and took care of children for busy mothers, and the jobs continued to pour in until the 5:30 quitting time.
On Sunday, members and their parents were invited to a special service of dedication at Central Congregational church, with the pastor, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., preaching on “Our Christian World Mission. Afterwards officers of the Fellowship group dedicated the money earned to Christian service.
The Youth Fellowship Choir under direction of Oscar R. Hand and accompanied by Larry Manderville, participated in the service. Miss Gail Payne rendered a solo.
2 1/2 Years Old
Central Church was organized just two and a half years ago by the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., with services of Worship held in the auditorium of the Crosman School, Hamilton at Clairmont. The church is now engaged in a city-wide Building-Fund drive to make possible the purchase of a church building.
The lack of a building, however, has done little to hamper the development of the church’s outstanding seven-day week program.
The church sponsors a Cub Scout Troop, a Boy Scout Troops, four Girl Scout Troops, two Youth Fellowship organizations, a children’s choir, a youth Choir, and a Boy’s Athletic Club with baseball and basketball teams in the inter-church Recreational League, in addition to a full program of adult activities.
The Men’s Club’s weekly Bowling League and monthly Forum meetings, and the Women’s Cultural Committee Forums, Square Dances, and Bridge Parties are community-wide in scope.
Rev. Mr. Cleage, Jr., is a graduate of Wayne University and the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology. He had completed two years towards his doctorate in religious education at the University of Southern California. Before returning to Detroit, Mr. Cleage held pastorates in Lexington, Ky., the Fellowship in San Francisco, Cal., and the historic old St. John’s Congregational Church of Springfield, Mass.
Before entering the seminary he served as Director of Youth Work at Plymouth Congregational Church at Detroit while employed as a Social Worker. The pastor is active in the Congregational Association of Detroit, of which his church is the youngest of twenty-seven.
Central and Plymouth Congregational churches are the only two designated specifically as Negro in Michigan.
Mr. Cleage serves as Chairman of the Social Action Committee of the Association, and member of its Board of Trustees.
He is on the Camp Management Committee of the Association’s Camp Talahi located near Brighton, Michigan, serving as counselor at both Camp Talahi and the Congregational State Conference Camp, Pilgrim Haven.
Mr. Cleage is also one of three adult advisors for the Detroit Association’s Youth Fellowship organizations. He is a regular guest speaker at other Congregational churches. During the past month he has spoken in Eaton Rapids, Dearborn, and Birmingham. He has conducted youth seminars at two churches in Detroit.
At the Fall Religious Education Workshop sponsored by the Detroit Association at the Gross Pointe Congregational Church, Mr. Cleage conducted the Seminar on Youth Work.
Thus, for the moment, we’ll end our visit in the “Gold Coast” area, hoping you will again visit it with us upon our second trip.
Transcription of an article by Robert L. Crump, which you can find at the bottom of this page and at this link to the Library of Congress “Chronicling America” where the archive of The Detroit Tribune can be found. Detroit Tribune September 28, 1957. I have added photographs from my personal collection and corrected typos. Please do not reuse without permission and linking to this blog.
The day was hesitant, it’s disposition undecided. Sunlight broke though the clouds only to be shut out again. People walked through the streets aimlessly and carefree – but inside the Central Congregational Church there was no aimlessness, no hesitancy or indecision. The congregation was observing its “Home Coming Day,” their first service in a new building.
Those chimes you heard before entering the church were played by brother (Henry). Inside you listened to the moving musical prelude by Mrs. Dorothy Blaylock, organist. George Branham knew. He expressed the sentiments of all when he sang, “Bless This House”.
Then came the formal presentation of the key by David M. Brewster and Jack B. Paul representing Brewster Pilgrim Congregational Church; and accepting for Central was answer to the supplication of James W. Stephens.
As though they knew the “Bless This House,” the choir under the capable direction of Oscar R. Hand did the anthem “Praise To God” beautifully.
As you look to the altar you see a magnificent twenty to twenty five feet stained glass window. It is truly a masterpiece. The coloring is so tremendous that even when the sun isn’t shining on it, it still maintains vivid color life.
To the right of this window on the rostrum, Saturday Dr. Edward W. Wilcox for the congregational association on the left sat a man, who’s “dream” is now, reality, after four and one half years.
Now it was his turn to say “thank you” to those who had placed their shoulders to the wheel both physically and financially. I, and not I alone, watched him as he walked to the pulpit, he stood for a second and braced himself against the object that has for centuries been the symbol of self dedication.
Instead of the Ram that was tied in the thicket as in the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac he was offering himself as a living sacrifice, and dedicating.
He mentioned the names of four people who have passed, Mrs. Willie Strauther, Mrs. Mabel Clarry, Mrs. Eleanor Hughes and his beloved father. Albert Cleage, Sr. The timber of his voice changed at the mention of his dad. I realize it was extremely difficult to hold back the tears. His mother, Mrs. Cleage Sr. in an effort to help, turned her head and her eyes from him, two sisters in the choir hoped almost in available tones he would not break another sister and three brothers in the congregation did the same, and in a split second the power of combined prayer was manifested.
He spoke of the great friendship that still exists between Plymouth Congregational Church and Central; also the debt of gratitude that cannot be paid to the Rev. Horace A. White of Plymouth for his encouragement and advice during Central’s trying times.
He talked of the church’s position in the community, of the Ministers role in the church some of the development of a Christ like community’ like being able to look your worst enemy in the face and honestly see good in him. Then, “This Man” mentioned Nashville, and Little Rock and the disturbance that was taking place.
He spoke of Faubus and Ike and as he did my thoughts sort of wandered to three words, “Faith, Hope and Charity.” and another line, “But the Greatest of these is “Love”. Then with Rare Richness and tonal beauty Melvin Thompson sang, “I talked to God last night.”
While he sat listening to the solo and looking over the filled auditorium I know he believed in the inscription on the alter, “Love Never Faileth.”.
I had the pleasure of again shaking the hand of a man who’s dream was now a reality: The Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr. minister of the Central Congregational Church 7625 Linwood Ave. at Hogarth.
Below is a partial transcription of the sermon delivered above in it’s entirety.
Excerpted from “No
Halfway Revolution,” text of a sermon delivered at Central United Church of
Christ, the Shrine of the Black Madonna, on July 23, 1967, several hours after
the Detroit Rebellion began:
said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ Then be bowed with all his might; and
the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people that were in it. So the
dead whom he slew at his death were more than those whom he had slain during
his life” (Judges 16:30).
lesson is taken from the Book of Judges. While the riots were going on down in
Watts [in August 1965], I preached on the same text. Samson is a good Biblical
figure and he fits into the framework of riots and rebellion.
The Book of
Judges has to do with the early leaders of Israel who presided over the young
Nation Israel and were called “judges.” Samson was never a leader of Israel in
the sense of having an official position. Yet his story is included in the Book
of Judges because he was a leader in the fight against the Philistines. …
period when Israel was in bondage to the Philistines, Samson was the person
people looked to. He was a kind of center, the outstanding personality. Yet he
was different from all the other judges, essentially because the times were
different. Israel needed somebody like Samson.
I remember when
the riot in Watts was going on, the front page of Life Magazine pictured a young black militant with a do-rag around
his head. He was a symbol of what was happening. He represented rebellion against oppression.
So I have
selected the same Scripture lesson now because that which started in Watts two
years ago and which is now sweeping the nation is the same kind of rebellion
against oppression which Samson represented in Israel. The same kind of hoodlum
character emerges as some kind of peculiar hero because he does the things
which have to be done at a particular time in human history.
any hero kind of person in normal circumstances. Normally people would have
frowned on him. They would have called him a hoodlum. They wouldn’t have listed
him in their religious scriptures as a “judge” of Israel. But during this
particular time, he had what everybody wanted. He wasn’t afraid, he didn’t mind
dying, he was emotional, he struck out against oppression. So everybody called
him a judge of Israel. …
A riot becomes a
rebellion when people tend to support the little group of people who begin some
kind of violence. In America today, we have riots or rebellions taking place in
almost every city across the country. …
This is the kind
of times in which we live. We had our own riot here in the City of Detroit.
Riot or rebellion, you pick your own word for it. I think what we had is a
riot. I think it has been participated in by relatively few people — so far.
stations called me and asked if I wanted to issue a statement asking people to
cool it. I said I had been trying to get white people to do something that
would make it possible to cool it for years, and nobody had paid any attention,
so I didn’t have any statements about cooling it now.
I tried to
explain that if everything is alright in Detroit, if nobody is alienated, if
nobody feels oppressed, if all black people feel that there are other things
they can do to change the situation, if they are confident that they have
alternatives to violence, then it is just a little thing that broke out and it
won’t last for long.
But if all black
people in Detroit feel that they are helpless and hopeless, and that there is
no chance of solving their problems peaceably, that they can’t solve them by
the ballot or by organizing or by economics, then you have a rebellion on your
hands — because, in that case, more black people are going to join in, once it
There is a
difference then between a riot and a rebellion. A riot is a little group,
perhaps more interested in looting than in freedom. But a rebellion is a
community that has decided that it will no longer tolerate the kind of racial
oppression that it has been forced to tolerate.
So across the
country we are getting a combination. In some communities there are riots.
Little bands hear about what is happening somewhere else and think it might be
good to have one here. And in other communities, it is not a riot at all; it is
around and say, we are tired of these slums. We are tired of all the conditions
that we have to put up with. We are tired of the whole situation and we are not
going to tolerate it any longer. And then a whole community erupts, and other
people say, we don’t know why it happened. That is a rebellion. And more and
more of these eruptions are rebellions, rather than riots.
Now in any
period of rapid social change … you are going to get all kinds of people
participating, and everybody who participates is not going to be a great
freedom fighter. If you start a fight on a corner because your freedom has been
transgressed, there is going to be somebody who comes up just because there is
a crowd of people and picks all the pockets he can.
mean that freedom wasn’t involved in the first fight. That just means that
somebody else who was broke or knows how to pick pockets utilized the situation.
But when that
happens, and we all stand back and say, “there was nothing going on but some
people picking pockets,” that isn’t true. And usually that is not true in a
community, no matter how much emphasis is placed upon the looting. Usually
there are other things that are important to the people. There are people who
loot, just as there are people who do every other kind of thing that they want
to do for their own personal satisfaction. …
As long as we
had a place and we knew where it was (the man had made it for us), and we were
afraid to get out of it, there was no possibility of a riot or a rebellion or
whatever you call it.
I point this out
to show you that there is some good in what is going on. It must mean that a
whole lot of black people no longer believe that they “have a place.” And
whether you like the expression that this new feeling takes or not, this change
is a fact, and that is good.
I prayed for,
lo, these many years that there would come a day when we wouldn’t know our
place, and if that’s what is indicated throughout the country, that
increasingly black people no longer know their place, then I say that is good.
If not knowing
our place leaves us for the moment confused so that we do some things that are
not constructive in the sense of planned campaigns for freedom, then that is a
part of the struggle, an inevitable part of the struggle. …
In a rebellion
or riot, a lot of people are concerned about things other than self. I am not
talking about the looters now — those who are trying to steal what they can and
get it home for themselves. They are just like the middle-class. I am talking
about those who are outraged, whether it is a sensible outrage or an irrational
outrage, outraged at the indignities that black people have to live with.
strike out not selfishly but because they identify with a group. They identify
with black people, and a policeman doesn’t have to shoot them before they are
outraged at police brutality. A policeman doesn’t have to beat them over the
head personally before they become involved in a reaction against police
is a complex thing, this struggle for freedom. It is so easy after we become
involved in a struggle to say, “Well, we have gone far enough now, let’s cool
it. I got some of the things I wanted. I got my job, I have been promoted, I
got a poverty program job now. Let’s call it all off now.”
what we were trying to get from the very beginning wasn’t something for you. It
was equality for all of us. And when we once started it about 13 years ago,
there wasn’t any calling it off.
Now you have
been talking all this time about “I want freedom, I would give anything for
freedom, I am tired of whitey, I am tired of him being on my back, I want to
run my own community.” You have been saying it, but it is harder to say it now
because they have fought on 12th Street and it may be on your street
soon. It is not over by any means. …
We were all for
the people in Newark [during the uprising in mid-July 1967] because we said
they were striking a blow for freedom. We said, “Isn’t it wonderful, what they
are doing?” And this Sunday some of you say, “Are those Niggers crazy? There
they go, just acting a fool, up and down 12th Street, robbing and
Plenty of them are acting a fool up and down 12th Street. And soon
they are going to be acting a fool up and down Linwood Street. They are going
to be acting a fool all across town, up and down Dexter, up and down Joy Road.
But that is a
part of what you started. You didn’t think you were going to have a rebellion,
a freedom struggle, and nobody was going to get hurt, did you? Did you think it
was going to go on everywhere else, and they were coming to Detroit in the end
and say, “You all are black, too. We are going to give you the things that
these other people were fighting and dying for. We are going to give it to you
because you all were so good.” It doesn’t happen like that. When it started, it
started for everybody.
Some of the
people who holler so much about violence had a part in starting it. [NAACP
executive secretary] Roy Wilkins doesn’t want to be reminded of it now, but
when they started taking these cases to the Supreme Court, when the NAACP won
the case to outlaw segregation in schools throughout the South, that was one of
the first gunshots of the rebellion.
And Wilkins can
say now that he doesn’t like what is happening, but he had a big part in
starting it because at that time we didn’t know what we were. We didn’t know
what the possibilities were in human life. We didn’t know what we could do.
When the Supreme Court said [in its school desegregation decision on May 17,
1954] you have to give equal education, we said if we have to have equal
education, there are a whole lot of other things we have to have too.
King said he didn’t believe in a whole lot of things which are now going on.
But when he had the bus boycott in Montgomery [from Dec. 5, 1955-Dec. 20,
1956], that was the second shot. When black people started marching in
Montgomery and white folks couldn’t stop them, black people all over the
country said, “Look here, the man hasn’t got as much strength as we thought he
had.” That was the beginning of our changed conception of ourselves, and a
changed evaluation of the white man.
Then some people
said, “We are not going to ride in the back of the bus anymore.” So we had the
Freedom Riders [beginning in May 1961]. The whites burned up busses, they
turned them over, they whipped black men and women over the head, but the
Freedom Riders didn’t stop. Another shot. The rebellion is going on, people’s
ideas are changing. …
A few years ago
a black man stepped off the sidewalk in one of those Southern towns if a white
man looked like that was what he wanted him to do. When you come from the stage
where you step off the sidewalk to the point where you are ready to let police
dogs and everybody else try to stop you but you keep on, you have come a long
way in your mind. …
Even in Detroit,
provincial and backward as we are, we have been thinking differently the last
few years. … You remember the Freedom March in Detroit when more than 300,000
black people marched down Woodward Avenue [on June 23, 1963]? What happened at
Cobo Hall when we got there is something else.
But we marched
in protest, 300,000 of us. Even then, we were in the process of changing. Our
thinking was changing. When you start this process, when you start black people
deciding that they are going to be equal; that they are going to change
conditions; that the white man is not going to keep them in bondage and slavery
and oppression; that if be does, he is going to have to do it with force and
naked power, then a whole new world is being born. That is what we are in the
midst of now.
Carmichael [chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] screams
“Black Power,” he is only putting into a phrase the change which has been going
on for almost fifteen years. Things had reached the point where the change
could be put into a phrase. And so Stokely said “Black Power,” and everybody
screamed “Black Power,” and the white man said — “uh-uh.”
Then the white
man began to ask, “What is Black Power, what do you mean? What is the
philosophy of Black Power?” But the white man knew that some big and basic
change had already taken place, or Stokely Carmichael could not have cried
“Black Power” and gotten a Black Power response.
This is the kind
of thing that we are in the midst of everywhere in these United States. You
look at the paper now and you wonder at the places that rebellions or riots are
breaking out. Little communities that don’t have enough black people for you to
feel comfortable in are fighting — 3,000 in a community of 80,000, and they are
tearing up the town.
But those 3,000
have been systematically mistreated and oppressed, and when they get ready to
strike back, they don’t always care whether they win or whether they lose. This
we have got to understand.
Most of you are
rational. You are for freedom, for justice, for equality. You make rational
decisions, you are going to fight in a rational kind of way, you realize that
there are certain things you can do.
But you know
this freedom thing is exploding in people’s heads. And everybody is not going
to be rational about it. When someone decides, “They have been mistreating my
momma and my grandmamma, they have been mistreating all of us, and I don’t like
it,” they are not all going to be rational about it. …
happens in a rebellion is not sensible. …
You try to give at every step a sensible alternative to violence, as we
do here at the Shrine of the Black Madonna. We believe in political action. Now
a lot of black people say, “I don’t care about political action, that is just
the white man’s bag.” Well, that is what they think.
We have got to
try political action because that is an alternative to violence. We have got to
use picket lines, boycotts, all the things that offer the possibility of power
without the necessity of violence. We try to do those things. That doesn’t mean
that at the same time we look with disdain on these other people who are
fighting in this country for the same cause that we are fighting for.
We have got to
understand that it takes all kinds of people to fight a rebellion, and a lot of
them are not going to be doing it the way you are doing it at any single
moment. And a whole lot of people are not going to agree with the way you are
doing it, either.
It won’t be too
long before they will be calling you “Uncle Tom,” because unless you throw a brick
you are an Uncle Tom. That would be a logical development, wouldn’t it? But you
understand why people do what they do.
essentially we are trying to get free and we want justice and we are no longer
talking about love and all those other things that cluttered up people’s minds
for so long. We want justice and we are going to fight for it. But there are a
lot of ways to fight. Because we fight one way, let’s not join in some
universal denunciation of people fighting in some other kind of way.
goes on. There is no halfway revolution. When it starts, it is going to go to
its logical conclusion. Either we get free or we end up in concentration camps.
You can understand that. There is no turning back, no stopping. You may wish
you hadn’t started, but you did. It is going on and there is no way you can
stop it. You can try to utilize reason, you can channel power, but you can’t
stop it. …
years now we have been engaged in a process of trying to break the black man’s
identification with the white man, so that a black man says, “I’m a black man
and I am not ashamed of it. I am a black man and I don’t feel I have to go
along with anything the white man says.” …
determine our heroes. Recall, again, in the Book of Judges, how Samson was
considered one of the judges of Israel because he lived at a time when they
needed that kind of person, fearless, strong, with a deep hatred for the enemy.
And how Samson fought. And remember the end of the Scripture lesson this
wonder, “What are they trying to do, what do they hope to accomplish?” Remember
when Samson was in the Temple and the Philistines were all around, making fun
of him, robbing him of his dignity. They brought him out because be symbolized
the enemy whom they had fought against, the enemy who had humiliated them so
many times. …
And a little boy
brought Samson out and put him in between these two big pillars that held up
the Temple. His hair had begun to grow back because he had been down in the
dungeon so long, and with it his strength returned. He asked the little boy to
put his hands on the two pillars because he couldn’t even see. They had blinded
him. And the little boy put his hands on the pillars so Samson could support
himself. And when Samson got his hands on the pillars, he knew what he was
going to do.
You may not like
it, you may not agree with it, but Samson spoke right out to God about it. “Let
me die with the Philistines. Oh God, that I may be avenged upon the Philistines
for one of my eyes.” You have to understand that indignation, anger, hatred,
all of them stemming from systematic oppression, can develop to the point where
an individual says, “I am willing to die if I can take a whole bunch of them
That is what
Samson said. I am not quoting from anybody in Detroit or Newark. That is the
Bible. “‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ Then he bowed with all his might and
the house fell upon the Temple and upon all the people who were in it. So the
dead he slew at his death were more than those he had slain during his life.”
This you are
going to have to understand because this is a part of the rebellion. There are
people like this in Detroit, Newark, Birmingham, California, New York, Chicago
who are willing to destroy even themselves if they can express antagonism, if
they can strike out against oppression. So to the Hebrew people, the Jews,
Samson is a great hero.
Who knows but
that a hundred years from today we may remember as heroes some of these very
individuals we call hoodlums today, who are striking out for freedom? We don’t
know. But they fight for freedom in their way and we in ours, confident that
God will see that freedom comes. …
(Source: Albert B. Cleage, Jr. The
Black Messiah [Kansas City, Kan.:
Sheed Andrews and McNeel-Universal Press Syndicate, 1968], pp. 122-28)
Edited by Paul Lee
Other posts relating to the Detroit Riot/Rebellion
This Sunday afternoon, I came across this article on the fb page of one of my cousins. Article and transcription below.
April 12, 1952 The Michigan Chronicle – “America’s Fastest Growing Weekly”
The Cleages An Introduction to one of Detroit’s most Versatile and Accomplished Families
A bright-eyed little lad of eight crossed 12th
street just below Edison and walked down to the St. Mark’s Community Church
near Atkinson. He opened the door,
entered and was directed to the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who sat on a
table in the basement watching a troop of Brownie girl scouts busily making
“Can I help you?” the Rev. Mr. Cleage asked the little boy.
The boy nodded. He was trying to locate his cub scout group.
He gave the Rev. Mr. Cleage the troop number and the minister located the troop
meeting place through a church bulletin. He gave the boy directions, and the
boy went away.
The incident was typical of the attitude of the people of
that community toward each other and the St. Mark’s Church in general, and
toward the Rev. Mr. Cleage in particular
In less than a year, the boyish-looking pastor of the church has succeeded in making the church not only a spiritual stronghold but a center of community interest and service as well.
Practical institutions like a day nursery, with a paid
worker, where all members of the community can bring their children are
integral parts of the total church program.
Youth activities, including sports, socials and dramatics,
are not merely encouraged – they are directed and supervised by adults in the
The Rev. Mr. Cleage believes that the church should serve the community as a whole and not simply the adults. He also believes –in his own words – “That the church cannot have much influence on the congregation if it merely serves as a meeting place for services on Sunday morning.”
This intelligent approach toward religion, which draws into
it all the normal aspects of living, characterizes the Rev. Mr. Cleage. It is
an attitude which does not spring solely from his theological training but
which has its roots deep in his family background.
For the Cleage family is one of Detroit’s most versatile and
The Cleage family is headed by Dr. Albert B. Cleage, Sr.,
veteran physician who has practiced medicine on the city’s west side since
1913, and by his wife, Pearl.
A graduate of Knoxville college and of the University of
Indiana medical school, Dr. Cleage instilled in his four sons and three
daughters an appreciation for education, sound principles and respect for human
All seven of the younger Cleages attended Wayne University.
The Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the oldest son, went on to graduate from the
Oberlin (Ohio) Graduate School of Theology and to work on his doctorate in
Visual Education at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.
The second son, Dr. Louis J. Cleage, gradated from the Wayne
University medical school. After interning at the Homer Phillips hospital in
St. Louis, Dr. Cleage returned to Detroit to practice medicine with his father.
Henry W. Cleage, the third son, graduated from the Wayne
university college of law and is a member of the legal firm of Cleage ad League
The youngest son Hugh, who studied agriculture at Wayne and
at Michigan state college, is presently a clerk in the Detroit Post Office.
Two of the three Cleage daughters are now married and live in other parts of the county. Mrs. Barbara (Cleage) Martin lives in Newburg, N.Y. and Mrs. Gladys (Cleage) Evans, a former Detroit schoolmarm resides at the Veterans hospital at Tuskegee, Ala., where her husband is a physician.
Anna, the youngest of the Cleages, will graduate from the
Detroit, will graduate from the Detroit Institute of Technology’s school of
pharmacy in June. She has already received her bachelor of arts degree from
During the war years, capitalizing on Hugh’s training and
Henry’s zeal, the two Cleage’s bought a 100-acre farm at Capac, Mich., and
proceeded to raise chickens and operate a dairy. They maintained an average of
1,000 broilers plus 500 laying hens, and a herd of 15 milk cows.
Though successful, the venture proved just a bit strenuous for the two, so they sold the farm and returned home. Henry went back to his law books and Hugh became a postal employee.
The Cleage family is a closely-knit unit, the kind of family
which is held up as an example of the typical American family. It is a
disciplined unit, with the wisdom of age and experience meeting the enthusiasm
of youth, and the two being molded into a liberal philosophy of life.
From this family background, the Detroit community has profited. For, aside from the fact that such a well-balanced group is a community asset in itself, the family produced the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who is demonstrating through his leadership of the St. Marks congregation the virtues of his family training. – by Fuller
I wish my interviewing skills had been better when I recorded this. Obvious things like, turn off the radio and go to a quiet room. I edited out as much of the extraneous noise as I could. Henry and I were sitting in the living room of my house in Idlewild, MI. You can hear the sounds of the kids getting dinner on the table and hollering at the dog in the background. In 1994 my youngest four were all at home and we were homeschooling. Henry lived about 4 miles away and often had dinner with us. In his statements, Henry couldn’t remember some names. When I posted the transcript of the interview years ago, my friend Paul Lee commented: “Henry couldn’t recall the names of the “two brothers” who co-founded the FNP with “Afro-American” newspaper foreign correspondent William W. Worthy. They were Leftist attorney Conrad J. Lynn and Daniel Watts, publisher of New York’s militant “Liberator” magazine. As you know, Worthy and Watts attended the National Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference in November 1963.”
Yesterday I came across these posters from 1963 and today I found the theme for this weeks Sepia Saturday was Posters. Although these are not on a wall, there were identical ones put up around Detroit during the time leading up to the election of 1964.
And now a modern wall with posters not too far from my house. The colorful part is painted. The faces are printed on paper and glued on. To the left of my sister’s face, three artists were peeled off. The building is a former night spot what now stands empty in a mostly deserted strip mall. I hope they plan to put the three missing artists back up. There were men in the back painting that wall and there are similar murals on the other walls.
It was June of 1971 and my grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage was waiting for the party to begin. Uncle Hugh is in the kitchen getting things ready. Grandmother was 87 and didn’t break her hip for some years yet. I remember so many dinners around that table. There were always cakes with caramel icing for birthdays. This time it looks like there are two cakes – one chocolate and one with caramel icing. Both have candles.
Candy corns in the little silver dish. There were often candy corns in the covered candy dish that always on the front room table coffee table. Candy corns or red and white striped peppermints or sometimes chocolate kisses.
I can think of several June birthdays. My father turned 60 that year. My cousin Anna Pearl turned eleven and her sister Maria turned nine. It must have been an all June collective party. I wish I had been there. My oldest daughter Jilo turned one that June.
I found this photograph years ago in my Grandmother Cleage’s photos. I asked my aunt Gladys who it was and she said it was Anna Roberta Reed, Uncle Hugh’s daughter. When I posted it and identified it as such, her descendants assured me that it was not her.
While going through the archive of the Detroit Tribune recently, I found a newspaper article that identified her as Evelyn Thompson, daughter of Robert Carter. She was married in September of 1935.
“Mrs. Robert Carter, of Cleveland, Ohio, who was formerly Miss Evelyn Thompson of 5253 Twenty-fourth street, this city. Mrs Carter is very happy and what bride wouldn’t be? She was showered with exquisite wedding gifts from her husband, including a new Hudson car, a baby grand piano and a diamond ring.
The bride who is the daughter of Walter Thompson, a well-known Detroiter and was a popular and charming member of the Detroit’s younger set. She was a student at Wayne University and was a member of several local social organizations, including the A.K.A. Sorority.
The groom holds a responsible position with the Edition Illuminating Company in his city.
Mr. ad Mrs. Carter, who were married in Erie, PA. Sept 30, are happily domiciled in their lovely residence at 2160 East 86th street, in Cleveland.”
She appeared in the same paper with the same photograph several years later:
“Mrs. Evelyn T. Carter of Cleveland, formerly Miss Evelyn Thompson of this city, who recently spent two weeks as guest of her father, Walter Thompson, on 24th street. She was accompanied by her infant son.”
Evelyn Thompson graduated in 1931 from Northwestern High School in Detroit. That is the same year my Uncle Louis Cleage graduated. That explains her picture in the family photo box.
I found one other clipping, her obituary in the “Plain Dealer” April 6, 1977.
News items were found on Newspapers.com. School yearbook photos found on Ancestry.com. First photo from my personal collection.