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.
This was Thanksgiving at my Graham Grandparents house in 1963, east side Detroit. My grandfather cuts the turkey. My mother sits on the right. I am on the left, my sister next to me. Wonder where my Aunt Mary Vee and my cousins were? Usually there were four more around the table. How we all fit I do not know, but we did. The house is gone now. Everybody in this photo except my sister and I are dead. We are almost as old as my grandparents were.
My sister Pearl patting goat while being held by my mother. The back of my head is visible on the lower right. This is probably at the petting zoo on Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan. Taken in 1952 when Pearl was 3.
Here is a photograph including 3 signs from the early 1940s and a rough sketch of the same area that I did in 1968. Both were taken from upper floors on Wayne State University buildings looking on Cass Ave. I did the sketch from an upper floor of State Hall. I believe that the photo was taken from Old Main, (the only tall building facing that direction on campus at the time), by my uncle Henry Cleage while he was a student at Wayne.
After looking on Google maps, I no longer think this was taken from Old Main, looking down Cass. I wonder where it was taken from because that is definitely the Macabee building.
The Macabees building on the upper left corner use to hold the Detroit Board of Education. My husband and I went and picketed there the first day we met, in support of the Northern high school student boycott in the spring of 1966. You can read more about that in I Met My Husband in the Library.
In March of 1953, a disagreement between my father, then known as Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., pastor of St. Mark’s Community, United Presbyterian Church and a group of members who were not happy with the direction he was was taking the church, came to a head. My father and 300 members of the congregation resigned and founded St. Mark’s Community Church, which several months later became Central Congregational Church and in the 1960s became the Shrine of the Black Madonna.
The split within the church also precipitated a family split. The ties between my grandfather, Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr. and his brother Henry Cleage were broken. The close relationship they shared throughout their lives, was gone. My sister didn’t know she had a cousin Shelton Hill (Uncle Henry’s grandson) until he introduced himself when they were classmates at Northwestern High School.
My grandfather Albert B. Cleage Sr. was the youngest of five siblings. He and his brother Henry were always close. They helped organize Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis and worked together to open the black YMCA there. During the 1930s and 1940s, they lived several blocks away on Detroit’s old West Side and saw each other almost daily.
After my father, Albert B. Cleage Jr. (later known as Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) was ordained in 1943, he served as pastor of churches in Lexington, KY, San Francisco, CA and Springfield, MA. During those years he often wrote home asking his family to help him find a church in Detroit. More than once he mentioned getting his Uncle Henry to help.
In 1951 a group representing the United Presbyterian Church, including Albert Sr. and his brother Henry, organized St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church. It was located on 12th Street near Atkinson. My father was called to be the pastor. They started with 90 members and increased to over 300 during the following two years.
Uncle Henry and my father were both strong minded men. By the spring of 1953, they had reached an impasse over who was in charge and whether the focus of the church should be on its own members or on the larger community. An emotional church meeting in March 1953 caused a split between both the church members and the brothers, Albert Sr. and Henry.
In 1956 my grandfather Albert was very sick with cancer when the family heard that Uncle Henry was quite ill and in the hospital. Soon after they heard that Uncle Henry had died. They wondered if they should tell their father. He was so sick and they didn’t know how it would affect him. In the end, they didn’t have to. My grandfather was lying in bed and said “Henry died, didn’t he?” They said he had. Grandfather said, “I thought so.” They never figured out how he knew.
My grandfather was too sick to go to the funeral. Afterwards, Uncle Henry’s family had the funeral procession drive by my grandparent’s house on Atkinson. The cars drove past very slowly. It was a gesture toward the healing of a rift that began with the church fight in 1953.
Henry William Cleage died April 10, 1956. My grandfather Albert Buford Cleage Sr. died a year later on April 4, 1957. Both are buried in Detroit Memorial Cemetery in McComb County, Michigan.
The photograph for today was taken during the Black Arts Convention in Detroit. It was 1966. I was 19 and Jim was 21. This was LaSalle Park, which was located a few blocks from my father’s church on Linwood. I don’t remember why this session was held at the park, but I do remember walking back to church where other closing activities were held.
During that week, from Thursday through Sunday, The Black Arts Convention was held at Central United Church of Christ. There were workshops on the visual arts, theater, literature, religion and politics. There were arguments and sincere discussions. People from all over the country attended. I was going to write it all up, but I cut my finger last night while cooking dinner and typing is s-l-o-w today.
I found this photo of an unidentified cleaners in my Cleage photographs. There are no Cleages in the photo. It’s pasted on a piece of cardboard and a child, has scribbled in pencil all over the picture. I assume unidentified Cleaners is located in the neighborhood of the Old Westside of Detroit.
I have not been able to identify either the cleaners or the owners. There is a “Detmer Woolens” calendar on the wall but I can’t make out the year even when I scan it at 600 dpi. The dress the woman behind the counter is wearing, the narrow pant legs of the menby the counter and in poster on the wall and the short hair on the calendar girl make me think the photo was taken in the mid-1930s. I found this history of Detmer Woolens interesting.
In 1940 James McCall and his family lived at 4880 Parker Ave. on the east side of Detroit. The house was worth $5,000. He was 58 years old and had completed 4 years of college. He had worked 52 weeks in 1939, earning $1,600 managing a Printing Establishment.
His wife Margaret was 52 years old. She had completed 4 years of high school and was not working outside of the home. She was the informant. Everybody in the house was born in Alabama, had lived in the same house in 1935 and was identified as “W(hite)”. I would guess that people are wrongfully identified as “white” because the enumerator would not ask race, they would assume they “knew” by looking.
Oldest daughter, Victoria, was 24 years old, single and had completed 4 years of college. She had worked 40 weeks in 1939 as a public school teacher, where she earned $1,600. The youngest daughter, Margaret was 21 years old. She had worked 24 weeks in 1939 and earned $240 as a secretary of a Printing company.
The McCall’s owned their own printing company and published a newspaper “The Detroit Tribune”. My aunt, Mary V. Graham, who was their cousin, worked at the same printing establishment in the 1940 census. In the 1990’s she shared her memories of her work there. Mary V’s job was to read newspaper articles to James McCall because he was blind. From what she read to him, he would formulate his editorial articles. He had a braille typewriter that he used to write the articles. Mary V said she learned so much, reading to him and talking to him about various topics. She remembered that he was a wealth of information and knew a lot about everything.
In late April of 1966 I was 19 and a sophomore at Wayne State University in Detroit. Northern High students walked out of school on April 25 to protest the way they were being (or not being) educated. Several other inner city high schools walked out in sympathy. Northwestern organized a supporting boycott and my sister, Pearl, was a leader. My father and others were providing adult support.
I usually studied in the sociology room of the Main Library, which was in the middle of Wayne’s campus. As I was leaving to go to my next class that day, a guy came up and asked if I was Rev. Cleage’s daughter. I said I was. He asked if I was leading the Northwestern boycott and I said no, that was my sister. We made arrangements to meet after my class on the picket line in front of the Board of Education Building.
We did and afterwards sat around for several hours talking in the “corner” in the cafeteria at Mackenzie Hall. The “corner” was where black students congregated. I felt strangely comfortable with Jim. Strange for me, anyway, since I didn’t feel comfortable with anybody, unless I was in a political discussion. He tried to convince me to join a
sorority and convert the members to revolution. There wasn’t a chance I was going to do that. He also told me that he was “nice”. I asked if he meant as in some people were “revolutionaries”, he was “nice”. He said yes, that’s what he meant.
Michigan State Police
Additional Complaint Report
Page No. 2 Complaint 99-133-66 file 1.15 Date 4-25-66
(note: seems to be continued from a lost page)…students take part in the meeting and form plans by themselves. Representatives from the following Detroit High Schools were present and pledged to back the walk-out, Cass Tech, Central, Chadsey, Cooley, Denby, Mackienzie, Mumford, Northwestern, Southeastern and Western.
Advisers to the students at this meeting were; Reverend Albert Cleage and Reverend Cameron Wells MED. The school representatives most active at this meeting were; Micheal Bach____, 17, Negro male of Northern HS, Pearl Cleage, 17, Negro female of Northwestern HS and Stanley Parker, 17, Negro male of Southwestern HS.
April 25, 1966: The “Freedom School” session (sic) were held in the day. No police incidents.
At 4:oo PM a demonstration and picket line formed at 5057 Woodward Avenue, the Board of Education building. The demonstrators carried signs demanding upgrading of the education at Northern and other inner-city high schools.
There were about 75 persons demonstrating. About 14 adults appeared to be parents of students, about 12 young people appeared to be high school students, the remainder of demonstrators were persons identified as members of such groups as SNCC, Young Socialist Alliance, Detroit Committee to end the War in Vietnam, Students for a Democratic Society and persons seen at Socialist Workers Party Forums.
The following persons were identified in the picket lines: _____ Allen, Kenneth Cockerel, Edward D’Angelo, Todd Ensign, Robert Higgins, Derrick Morrison, Marc ____, David Neiderhauser, Sol Plafkin, Micheal Patrick Quinlin, Harvey Roes, Sarah Rosenshine, Charles Simmons, Mark Shapiro, Tom____, Peter_______, Jackie Wilson and James Winegar.
April 26, 1966: The students met at the “Freedom School” at 8:00 PM a meeting was held. They returned to the classes at Northern High School. Representatives of the students and the school authorities are going to continue meeting to improve conditions.
__________FAST FORWARD TO APRIL 26, 2012_________
Today, April 26, 2012, I received this email from a community organizer in Detroit about a student walkout yesterday.
“Today, 180 students were suspended for walking out of Western HS yesterday. Their cell phones were taken from them and messages and numbers were gone through by security. The police deleted numbers and messages from the students’ phones.
This month, Frederick Douglass Academy students walked out over constant turnover of teachers and shortage of supplies. The principal being fired was the catalyst in this student lead walk out. The secretary of the school was ultimately fired, as well.
Mumford HS students walked out, refusing to have Mumford put into the Educational Achievement Authority (failing district). The students were suspended and the teacher who told them they are not failures was fired for allegedly encouraging them to walk out.“
To visit a website with information by the involved students about the freedom school that starts today (Friday, April 27) and more, click Southwest Detroit Freedom School. The article is on the left side and there are more links at the bottom of the article. I’m cheered to find organizing going on in response to what happened. Almost makes me wish I was in Detroit.
There is no May Pole in this post but there are a couple of Demonstrations that I think will represent May Day.
2130 Hobart Blvd. #4 Los Angeles 7, California January 9, 1945
It’s me again. I heard from the Board of Pulpit Supply in Boston this morning… and as I “suspected” there ain’t no vacancy. Reverend White has not as yet contacted me regarding names and addresses… He was no doubt surprised that his “bluff” had been called. The pastor is on a leave-of-absence and another pastor is serving for him. so that’s that.
You-all failed, apparently, to take my suggestion regarding the organization of a Detroit church very seriously. ‘Tain’t no use, however…in view of the absolute lack of Congregational openings I’m going to have to organize somewhere. Let me present the matter again in an orderly manner so you can let me know your reactions immediately.
I think I can organize and operate a church in Detroit without any great difficulty IF either the Presbyterian or Congregational Board can be interested in contributing to such an undertaking. By contributing for the purchase of an adequate plant in which the execution of a full church program would be possible. The local Congregational Board does not think in those terms so I would prefer not to have to deal with them. I have no way of knowing what the Presbyterian board would consider SO I WISH THAT DADDY and/or Uncle Henry would find out. In my previous letter on this matter I mentioned a small church on Forest near Brush. After more lengthy consideration, however, I think organizing that close to Reverend White could not but be considered a declaration of war… and I would rather not start with any more declarations of war than necessary (Rev. Hill and the rest would automatically consider any such move WAR no matter where it was located.) So, the Church on the Blvd. and Warren being out of the question until the war is over…I end up with the only practical possibility, The Church building at the end of Scotten (facing Grand River) is available and adequate. It is offered for sale for ninety-five thousand, ($15,000 down) THE LOCATION is better than it would seem off-hand. It is convenient to both the WEST SIDE and the NORTH-END (where any members I might pick up would come from for the most part) The building has two auditoriums… club rooms… offices… and a gas station on the corner (For a co-operative venture!) WOULD THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH LEND A MISSION THE DOWN-PAYMENT ON SUCH A BUILDING? If a membership of say 100 and pledges of $100 a week could be lined up?
You are no doubt thinking the idea “impossible”…but I should think that a Board without a Detroit Church, properly approached regarding such a “community church idea” would not consider the risk too great. Talk it over with Uncle Henry and let me know as soon as possible. (So I can get Bud busy sighing up members!)
Everything is O.K. (Same as usual).
I tried to find a photo of a church on the corner of Scotten and Grand River in Detroit, which was only a few blocks from the Cleage family home, but there is no longer a church there.
To the left is a photograph of Bud Elkins, who was helping my father look for a church building in Detroit. He was married to my mother’s sister, Mary V. Graham Elkins. At this time they had one daughter, Dee Dee, who is the 7 year old photographer who appears in this photograph.