This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.
Several years ago, I wrote about a trip to the west that my grandparents, Albert and Pearl Cleage made by train from Detroit to California. They were traveling with a group. I wasn’t sure when or where they went, aside from starting in Detroit. Since then I have found photographs that show they visited The Garden of the Gods in Colorado, the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and a beach with Oil derricks in the distance which may be Venice, California. They also visited an old west set and a mission bell, which I have so far been unable to locate.
I also decided that a photo of the grown children still living at home, eating dinner with my parents, dates the photo between 1951 and 1953 when we lived in that house.
We moved back to Detroit in 1951 and lived down the street from my grandparents who lived on Atkinson. At that time my aunts and uncles in the photo below lived with my grandparents.
My mother seems to be on her way to the kitchen, perhaps to refill a serving dish. From the left, we have my uncle Louis, my mother, Uncle Hugh and part of Aunt Anna and my father. I believe that this dinner took place when my grandparents took the trip. I can think of no other reason that they would all be crowding around the dinner table. The photographer must be my uncle Henry, who doesn’t appear in the photo. Where were my sister and I? Perhaps sitting at a different table. Perhaps it was after dark and we were in bed.
This week’s Sepia Saturday features an old airplane. I have two photographs of a small, old plane in my Cleage collection. Unfortunately there is nothing written on the back of either photo but I recognize my aunt Barbara – the baby in white, and the edge of my great grandmother Celia on the right edge.
Here is a photograph of my family standing in a field in Detroit, about 1921.
My grandfather Dr. Albert B. Cleage, Sr holding baby Barbara. next to him in my father Albert Jr, standing to the far right is my great grandmother, Albert Senior’s mother. My uncle Louis is front left, Henry is between Louis and Hugh who is standing with his hands on his hips.
Front row: my uncle Louis and my father Albert. In the back row: My grandmother Pearl holding baby Barbara, Henry, Hugh, Great grandmother Celia. My aunt Barbara was born July 10, 1920 in Detroit, Michigan.
This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.
Naps were a regular part of my day back then. Usually I fell asleep because I remember several times when I woke up and nobody seemed to be around. Once I wandered down the hall and found the movie “The Thief of Baghdad” being shown. I came in just as the genie was coming out of the bottle and it was quite frightening. I didn’t see the rest of the movie.
Another time I woke up and, again no one was around. This time I heard music and noise outside and went out to find that the church was holding a carnival with rides and I don’t know what else. I think there was even a ferris wheel like the one my sister got for Christmas that year. I seem to have had my nightgown on and was hustled back into the house.
In the photographs at my grandparents in Detroit, Pearl doesn’t appear in some of them and my grandmother wrote on the back and speculated that she must have still been sleeping from her nap.
The same happened in Springfield when my cousin Barbara didn’t appear in the photo, my mother guessed she was still asleep from her nap.
I remember this little 2 x 3 inch book. The picture I remember is of the writing on the walls that was done by the naughty little guest, who was actually the little goat’s imaginary friend, ie herself.
In 1930 the Cleage family lived on the Old West Side in Detroit, Michigan. In this neighborhood everybody was identified as Neg(ro) in the 1930 Census.
“The trickle of Black people living outside of Black Bottom would grow exponentially in the decade following the Sweet trials. By the late 1930s, middle class African Americans are firmly ensconced in four other neighborhoods in Detroit:
Paradise Valley – the business and entertainment district north of Black Bottom in the area now occupied by Ford Field, Comerica Park, 36th District Court and the Chrysler Freeway
Conant Gardens – the northeast neighborhood between Conant & Ryan (west and east) and 7 Mile & Nevada (north and south),
The North End – the neighborhood situated Woodward (west), the city of Hamtramck (east) E. Grand Boulevard (south) and the city of Highland Park (north),
And the Old Westside – bounded by Grand River (East), Buchanan (South), Tireman (North) & Epworth (West).
However, those 4 neighborhoods primarily opened up for middle class Black Detroiters.”
On the enumeration sheet with the Albert and Pearl Cleage family were 50 people in six houses in seven households. Five had a few lodgers, five had extended family members – sibling, parents, cousins. All seven had radios. All of the houses were owned by people living there. One of the houses had another family renting part of their house.
There were 34 adults on the page. 30 of them had been born in the south. One was born in Canada, one was born in Iowa and two were born in Michigan. They are all literate. Three of the men were vets of World War 1. Ten were not vets. One of the men was an employeer. He was a contractor. Two worked on their own account, a barber and my grandfather, a physician . Eighteen people worked for wages. Five women worked outside of the home. Three were married, one was divorced and one was single.
All of the children under 18 were born in Michigan. There were two eighteen year olds. One was born in Michigan and one was born in Alabama. All of the school age children, including the two eighteen year olds, were attending school.
The Albert and Pearl Cleage Family
My grandparent’s parents, my great grandparents, were born into slavery. My grandfather was born in 1883 in Louden Tennessee. He was 46 when the 1930 census was taken. He was a physician working on his own account, that is he had his own office at 4224 McGraw, which was some blocks from the house. He and Pearl Reed had married when he was 27. Although it says Pearl was 21 when they married, she was actually 26. She was born in Kentucky and did not work outside of the home.
They had seven children and all were still living at home and attending school. My father, Albert B. Cleage Jr. was the oldest and had been born in Indianapolis. He was eighteen. He had graduated from Northwestern High School in 1929 and was attending what is now Wayne State University.
Louis was sixteen and attended Northwestern High School. Henry was fourteen and also at McMichael Junior High or Northwestern. Hugh was eleven and probably still at Wingert Elementary school. Barbara was nine, Gladys was seven and Anna was five. All three would have been attending Wingert Elementary. Anna was in kindergarten and only attended half a day.
Albert’s mother, Anna Celia Sherman lived with them and is listed as 76. She was born in Tennessee. She died the following month after suffering a stroke. Her body was taken back to Athens for burial.
Two of Albert’s brothers lived in Detroit in 1930. One, Jake, lived several blocks from the house on Scotten. The other, Henry, lived further away although by 1940 he was in the neighborhood too.
My paternal grandmother, Pearl Reed Cleage was born 135 years ago in Lebanon, Kentucky, the youngest of Annie Reed’s 8 children. She married Dr. Albert B. Cleage in Indianapolis, IN in 1910 and they had seven amazing children, including my father, who they raised in Detroit, MI.
She was a small woman who looked sweet as pie and had a backbone of steel. She didn’t begin to run down until she broke her hip in her 80s. In 1982, my grandmother Pearl died of congestive heart failure in Idlewild, Michigan.
Today I am previewing my paternal grandparent’s, Albert and Pearl Cleage’s, household in 1950.
In 1950 the Cleage household consisted of Albert B. Cleage, his wife Pearl and five of their seven children. Albert was a Physician. He was 66 years old and had retired from his medical practice, my Aunt Gladys remembers. He was born in Tennessee and both of his parents were born in the United States. He had completed over 5 years of college. He and his wife had been married for 40 years. This was the only marriage for both.
Pearl D. Cleage was 64 years old. She had given birth to seven children. She was born in Kentucky and had completed 12 years of school. She kept house and had not worked or sought work outside of the home during the past year. Her parents were born in the US.
Louis Cleage, their son, was 36 years old and also a physician in a private practice. He had completed over 5 years of college and never been married. He worked 52 weeks. Henry Cleage, a son, was 34 years old. He had worked 52 weeks as an attorney in private practice. He had been married once and divorced about 6 years. Hugh Cleage, a son was 32 years old. He had never been married. He worked 52 weeks as a postal worker at the US post office. Not sure of his salary yet. He had completed 2 years of college. None of them had been in the military.
Barbara Cleage, a daughter, was 30 years old. She had worked the previous year as receptionist her brother’s doctor’s office. She had never been married and had no children. She had completed a year of college. Anna Cleage was the youngest daughter at 26 years old. She had completed over 5 years of college and had worked the previous year as a pharmacist in her brother’s doctor’s office. She had never been married and had no children. All of the children were born in Michigan. Everybody in the household was identified as Neg(ro).
By 1950 the Cleages had moved from their house on Scotten Avenue to 2270 Atkinson. This three story brick home with full basement was built in 1919. Because it was bought only 2 years before, in 1948, I believe there was a mortgage.
There were two full and two partial bathrooms. There were four bedrooms on the second floor and two in the attic. On the first floor there was a kitchen; a breakfast room; a dining room; a living room; a library and a sun room, adding another six rooms and making twelve rooms in total.
The house was heated by steam heat, with radiators in every room. The house was fully electrified, had hot and cold running water and indoor plumbing. There were two bathtubs and 4 flush toilets in the various bathrooms. In the kitchen there was an electric refrigerator. The stove was gas. The sinks all had hot and cold running water. There was a radio and probably a television. A friend who lived across the street from my grandparents says that his parents bought their house for $15,000 in 1952. My cousin Jan found papers about 2270 Atkinson. When my grandparents bought it early in 1949, the cost was $12,600.
1920 was the first election that my grandmothers, Fannie Mae Turner Graham and Pearl Doris Reed Cleage, were able to vote. It was also the first election in which my grandfather Mershell C. Graham was able to vote. Before that election he lived in Alabama, where black people did not have the vote until the 1960s.
My grandfather Albert B. Cleage had been living in the north since 1907, and so would have been able to vote in the 1908, 1912, 1916 and 1920 elections.
Family members who still lived in Tennessee and Alabama, men or women, still could not vote in the 1920 election.
With all the voting rights and demonstrations happening during the 1960s, I cannot believe I never talked to my grandparents about how they felt when they could finally vote.
The 1920 election seemed to be about as confused and contentious as today’s election.
In an article in The Detroit Tribune issue of February 26, 1938, my grandmother, Mrs. Pearl Reed Cleage was announced as the speaker for the next meeting of the West Side Human Relation Council on the following Monday. I looked in The Detroit Tribune that came out the following week and there was nothing about that meeting or my grandmother’s speech, but I found an article that mentioned a speech on the same topic of juvenile delinquency that my grandfather had made the previous month. Both articles are below.
The West Side Human Relation Council met Monday at the Lothrop branch library, West Grand Boulevard at Warren avenue. Turner W. Ross, president, presided.
Reports from the various committees were made and accepted by the council. A discussion concerning the toy-making project now under way followed. Another suggestion for discussion was the consideration for the organization of a group composed of mothers. It was the belief of the council members that the mothers could contribute much in the fight against juvenile deliquency. John C. Dancy, executive secretary of the Detroit Urban League, spoke regarding a west side community center.
The next meeting of the council will be Monday at the same place. Mrs. Albert Cleage is scheduled to discuss “Good Home Environment as a Potent Factor in Delinquency.”
Cleage Talks on Children
Speaks at Juvenile Group Meeting
The January meeting of the Juvenile Protective Association of Michigan was largely attended by members and visitors.
The membership campaign under the supervision of Mrs. Gertrude Henderson assisted by Mrs. Mamye Donovan and Mrs. John O’Dell, have made visits to various churches, taking the program and purpose of the organization to the people. Many pledged their support.
The guest speaker at the last meeting was Dr. A. B. Cleage, a member of the organization, also a staff member at the Receiving Hospital. Dr. Cleage gave a very interesting talk on the need of the home and nurseries for children of the race. He spoke of cases where children who had no home guidance or training, fall easy victims to disease of body and mind.
The next meeting will be held Monday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John O’Dell. The speaker will be Attorney Charles Roxborough.
Pearl D. Cleage, a founder of St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Detroit, died Saturday while vacationing in Idlewild, Mich. She was 94.
Mrs. Cleage, a Detroit resident since 1915, was the widow of the late Dr. Albert B. Cleage SR. and the mother of Reverend Albert B Cleage Jr., minister and founder of the Shrines of the Black Madonna, who began the Black Christian Nationalist movement in Detroit in the late 1960s. The Shrines are in Detroit, Atlanta and Houston.
Mrs. Cleage often lectured on African-American history. She was a member of the Auxiliaries of the Iota Boule and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternities.
Survivors include four sons, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., Dr. Louis, Henry and Hugh; three daughters, Barbara Martin, Gladys Evans and Anna Shreve; nine grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.
Other posts about my paternal grandmother, Pearl Doris Reed Cleage.