Categories
Cleages Letters

Just a short note…

June 11, 1944

Dear Folks,

Just a short not to tell you-all that we have our Los Angeles address and that the apartment is at least partially furnished. We received a Special from Mr Woodard, the agent who has been looking for a place for us, and this is what he said about the apartment he has for us.

“It is a modern apartment in every detail and is equipped with a living-room suite, carpet, Venetian blinds, and a pull-out bed in the living-room. Adjoining the living-room is a small alcove which is used as a kichenette. It has a frigidaire (I can hardly wait!!) in it but does not have a stove. Adjoining this kitchenette alcove, is a complete tile bath.” The rent is $37.50 per month.

Their apartment – 2130 S. Hobart Blvd. #4. Window upstairs between trees.

So ——it looks like we will go to Los Angeles and stay awhile. I hope the apartment is as good as he makes it sound. We are very lucky to have a furnished one…. it will save us quite a bit of expense. We have our tickets for July 2 and will leave at 8:15 a.m. and arrive at 6 p.m. the same day. The apartment will be ready for us when we get there, so we will not have to spend money for a hotel room. I am getting all ready to pack. Freight rate from here to L.A. is 90¢ a hundred pounds and if we ship our things four or five days before we leave, they should get there when we do.

Everything here goes well. We went down to Palo Alto yesterday with the Brittons and had a very good time. It was cold and foggy in San Francisco, but down there the sun was shining and we felt the first hot weather we’ve seen since last summer! Stanford University campus was a very interesting place to see what white-folks money can do. Five thousand acres of palm trees, huge stone buildings, carillons, a 30-room house for the President of the University, and an estate for Herbert Hoover… a mess.

Don’t worry about us if our letters are short for awhile. We’ll be busy getting ready to go. We’ll write something every week, though. It takes about six days for your letters (not air-mail —three days for them) to reach us, so if you mail any after June 25, send them to 2130 South Hobart Boulevard, Apartment 4, Los Angeles.

Doris

Hi Folks:

Looks like the “fabulous” Cleages are off on another “fantastic” adventure or something. WE’D VERY MUCH LIKE TO BORROW HENRY’S ELECTRIC-STOVE if you-all aren’t using it (or planning to use it soon.) It’s about the only thing we’ll have to buy for the apartment … except a desk (or table) for me. IF you-all can see your way clear send it to us at the address above RAILWAY EXPRESS right away SO IT WILL BE THERE WHEN WE ARRIVE. and (O.K. LOUIS) send us the bill (for carting and shipping)

I don’t remember whether I mentioned this or not. I heard from the Detroit Council of Churches a few days ago…saying that my application will be placed on file until they raise the money… and promising to contact me this FALL when the plans are worked out a little more definitely.

Don’t worry too much about our Los Angeles expedition… if it doesn’t work out WE’LL BE ALONG HOME ANY DAY. Seems like it might work if the good Lord decides to keep Albert B. Cleage, 3rd in heaven for a couple more years … and Doris can find an EASY job (which is the only sort she’d keep!)

Everything here is just too sweet … the church is arranging a farewell party … and getting a present etc. I preach my last sermon here next Sunday. We had a fine trip yesterday … down to Palo Alto … SOUTH …warm and everything … (Like Los Angeles). A lady in the church has a FORD she wants to sell for $250.00 … I’m trying to talk Doris out of getting it … (since it would leave us too close to broke!) (You can see she sure is a STA-BAL-IZING INFLUENCE! DON’T FORGET THE STOVE! Let us know, either way as soon as possible so we can try to pick up something here if you’re using it!

Toddy

_______________________

Other Letters Home

My Parents Time in San Francisco January to July 1944
Its Friday afternoon August 18, 1944
I have a little problem in “Design” December 20, 1944
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 1
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 2
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 3
Guess we must be writing too much.. January 6, 1945
Thanks for the Springfield information January 13, 1945
We received your letters…March 3, 1945
The Missing Months – March to November 1945

Categories
Cleages

Fellowship Church – Adventure in Interracial Understanding

After leaving Chandler Memorial Church in Lexington in January of 1944, my parents traveled across county, by train to San Francisco, CA where my father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr. became co-pastor of the interracial Fellowship Church. Here is an article he wrote in October, 1946, about the experience after he had moved on to St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, MA. At the end of the transcription, there are links to other posts about the time in San Francisco.

“Fellowship Church: Adventures in Interracial Understanding” NOW, first half October 1946, p. 4. Click to enlarge or transcription below.

San Francisco’s interracial Fellowship Church is now approaching the close of its first year of existence. Having weathered the storm of birth, infancy and growth, it is now, firmly established with two of America’s outstanding preachers, an expanding community program and a growing congregation.

From the beginning Fellowship Church has tried to de-emphasize its interracial character, preferring to be known as a community church, incidentally interracial. In spite of this theoretical distinction, however, Fellowship Church is nationally known as “San Francisco’s Interracial Church.” The church achieved national attention with the coming of Dr. Howard Thurman and his wife Sue Bailey Thurman.

Time magazine reporter sent to investigate the “project to which Dr. Thurman was coming” explained his interest by stating, “Anything which can drag Dr. Thurman across country for a year must be important.”

Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dr. Mordecai Johnson spoke at the testimonial meeting of church notables who gathered to wish Dr. and Mrs. Thurman God-speed on their great Christian adventure. Dr. Thurman spoke of Fellowship Church as “the most significant single step that institutional Christianity is taking in the direction of a really new order for America.”

Clipping in my grandmother Pearl Cleage’s archives, date and newspaper unknown.

I arrived at Fellowship Church a few weeks after its organization. All I knew of the project I had gleaned from the letters of Dr. Alfred Fisk, its organizer. He wrote: “We are organizing in San Francisco an interracial church to be known as ‘Fellowship Church.’

We do not want a church run by whites ‘for’ Negroes or one in which Negroes will merely be welcome to participate. We want to establish a church which will be of and by and for both groups. We are planning to have as co-pastors, with absolute equality of status, a Negro and a white person. The boards of the church, the choir, the Sunday School and its staff will be made up of both groups, and perhaps some Filipinos and others.”

I found the Church located in a very old residential neighborhood formerly occupied by the Japanese, but now termed the “Negro District.” Negroes made up about 50 percent of the population. Twenty thousand Negroes were crowded into make-shift rooming houses and apartment houses which had accommodated about eight thousand Japanese.

The city was suffering from a bad case of riot-jitters. Everywhere people seemed to be waiting for the signal which was to begin the fire-works. Both Negroes and whites were frightened and angry in the presence of something they couldn’t understand. D. Fisk, Fellowship Church’s white co-pastor, wrote to Dr. Thurman, “Unless you come to San Francisco we perish!”

San Francisco didn’t like the “new Negro.” They didn’t like his independence, his war-boom pay-checks, and most of all they didn’t like his increasing numbers. Very trivial things loomed large in their discussions of the “problem”, “the way Negroes crowded onto the streetcars to get home from work” “the way Negro women entered the most exclusive shops in their work clothes.”

Miss Vanita Lewis of the Children’s Bureau visited the city to oil the troubled waters. She lectured Negro leaders on the “disciplines of interracial living.”

Policeman were being taught “sociology” by a rabid Negro and Jew hating priest who lectured at great length on the innate racial differences “about which we can do nothing.”

In the midst of this bedlam I found Fellowship Church with 30 members and an infinity of good intentions. Dr. Fisk stated the problem well, “The challenge to a church in such a community is obvious. If ever the spirit of Christ were needed it is here. To interpret that spirit as an effective force in the community is our task as we see it.”

For the first six months of its existence Fellowship Church functioned without any formal membership. All persons who believed in the fellowship-idea were welcome.

The nucleus of the congregation consisted of a group from the American Friend’s Service Center which had been meeting for some months as the core group (The Committee On Racial Equality). They were mature and sincere young people of both races interested in the ideal of human brotherhood. They earnestly worked to build this ideal into a militant active church program. They brought a freshness of spirit and a sincerity of conviction which made of Fellowship something more than just another church, and which alone carried the experiment through the first trying months. Without them there could have been no Fellowship Church.

To this vital nucleus other individuals were attracted. The Negro residents of the immediate community did not overfill the small auditorium as Dr. Fisk had apparently expected. As the congregation steadily grew, attendance remained almost evenly divided between Negroes and whites.

Fellowship Church, as any interracial venture, in the midst of the American community, faced the task of deciding just how far it wanted to go in its undertaking. Each individual faxed the painful responsibility for his personal decision regarding the implications of his commitment to brotherhood and racial equality.

My months at Fellowship Church were devoted to hammering at one basic weakness. I saw clearly that the effectiveness and future of the church depended upon the building of a common social philosophy. People cannot work together to accomplish any program, however small, unless they agree in their interpretations of the total world in which they live.

A group of people cannot attack the “Negro-problem” unless they understand the socioeconomic framework out of which it has grown and upon which it depends. Only then can they decide whether or not they are willing to come to grips with the problem.

At the close of its first year Fellowship Church faces the crucial problem of undergirding its complete program with a common social philosophy. Its future development depends absolutely upon this decision. In this dilemma, of course, Fellowship Church is not alone. Liberal Christians everywhere cannot longer avoid their total responsibility to society by making pleasant and ineffective gestures in restricted and isolated areas of living.

To do something about the Negro problem implies also doing something about the Jewish problem, the Indian Problem, the African Problem, the Labor Problem, the Mexican, Chinese and Japanese Problems.

A Christian church must be even more thank a place where Negroes and whites can worship God together, or it will inevitably become less. It must function in every area of life as a united liberal force striking fearlessly out against all forms of oppression, bigotry and inequality. Its friends are the friends of human freedom no matter what the banner beneath which they march, and its foes are the oppressors of mankind, even though they march beneath the banner of Christ.

________________

The only article I found from the time in San Francisco.

My Parents Time in San Francisco
Newspaper Clipping of My Parents in San Francisco 1944
Hanging Up Laundry

Categories
Cleages Family History Writing Challenge February Photo collage Festival Houses

My Parents Time in San Francisco – January to July 1, 1944

This is the 23rd post in the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing ChallengeThe photograph for today is of a corner of the living room in my parents  apartment in San Francisco. It was 1944.

San Francisco Desk
My father’s desk in the San Francisco apartment. Photos of his sisters, Gladys and Barbara on the desk and one of my mother on the bookcase.  This desk looks like one that I have from my mother, but it’s not. I think the apartment was furnished. Surprised the typewriter isn’t visible.

My parents, Albert B. Cleage Jr and Doris Graham, were married in Detroit on November 17, 1943. They left immediately after the ceremony for Lexington, Kentucky, where my father had accepted a call from Chandler Memorial Congregational Church.  They were there only two months when he accepted an interim pastorship at the new, experimental San Francisco Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.  He served from January of 1944 through June of the same year.  The captions under the photographs are taken from what my parents wrote on the back when they sent the pictures back home to their families.

church & house San Francisco
The Church – on the corner. We live upstairs – rear – behind the jungle. (Rubber, Magnolia – Olive, etc.)
church sign- san francisco
doris_2_kids
This is Romeo and Patrick and me – fat jaws and all. June 1944
landscape_mountains
Mountains! Taken out our front window – over the housetops across the street.
downhill
This is Post Street looking toward the Ocean. Looks like you could follow it right on up to Heaven, doesn’t it? June 1944
down_street
Looking down at the “Fillmore slum” from our front window. The lady who bakes cakes for us lives over there –
toddy
Guess who this gangster looking talent is. June 1944.
hanging_clothes_SF_1944
Birds eye view of my mother hanging up clothes in the backyard.

Following is an excerpt from a biography of my father, about his time in San Francisco. I wish I had the box of letters I know existed from those six months.

“Cleage does not remember his work with the famous Fellowship Church of All Peoples with any fondness.  The new congregation, which had about fifty members when he was there, was a contrived, artificial affair, he says.  ‘An Interracial church is a monstrosity and an impossibility,’ he said. ‘The whites who came, came as sort of missionaries.  They wanted to do something meaningful, but this was not really their church. The blacks regarded it as experimental too, or were brainwashed to think that it was something superior.’ He called his white counterpart, Dr. Fisk, ‘well-meaning,’ and said Fisk thought he (Fisk) was doing a great work, but had no understanding of tension and power.  He felt the Lord looked in favor on this work, and any whites that joined him were headed for glory. He hated to have problems mentioned. Problems included the property left deteriorating after the Japanese were moved out, and the boilermakers’ union ‘which set up separate auxiliary units for black so they could discontinue the units after the war.’ Cleage joined in with NAACP efforts to get at these injustices.  He was told he could stay at the Fellowship of All Peoples if he wanted to, and he said ‘they were nice people, but it did not seem to me it was a significant ministry.’ About Fisk, he said, ‘He talked about the glorious fellowship washed in the blood of the Lamb; I talked about hell on the alternate Sundays.  He felt upset about my preaching, but he didn’t want to raise racial tension in his heaven.'”

From Hiley Ward, Prophet of the Black Nation. (Piladelphis: Pilgrim Press, 1969), p. 55.

________________________

You can see a newspaper clipping of my parents and a very short post about their time in San Francisco here Newspaper Clipping of My Parents. Soon after July 1, my parents moved to Los Angeles, where my father studied film making for a year before he was called to pastor St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts.