Albert B. Cleage Jr. papers [microform], 1949-2005
Using These Materials
- The collection is open to research.
- Cleage, Albert B.
- Detroit, Michigan clergyman, pastor at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, which later became Central Congregational Church. In the 1960s, Cleage and his congregation began restructuring the church's rituals, programs, and theology to conform to the Black Christian Nationalist philosophy. In 1970, the church was renamed the Shrine of the Black Madonna. The collection contains correspondence, sermons, and writings of Albert B. Cleage, Jr. (his name would later be changed to Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman); records of the shrine of the Black Madonna; papers of individuals within the church who assisted Cleage; and records of the National Office of the Shrine.
- 11 linear feet (on 19 microfilm rolls)
- Call Number:
- 07107 mf 544c – mf 562c
- Finding aid created by Michigan Historical Collections staff
- Scope and Content:
The collection has been divided into four series: Albert B. Cleage, Jr.: Correspondence, Sermons, and Writings, the files of the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit, Michigan, Church Leaders, and the files of the Shrine of the Black Madonna National Office.
- Biographical / Historical:
The oldest son of Dr. Albert B. Cleage, Sr. and Mrs. Pearl Cleage, Albert B. Cleage, Jr. was born June 13, 1911 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He grew up in Detroit, where his father had migrated to become the first Black city physician.
A graduate of Northwestern High School, Cleage attended Fisk University for a year before receiving his bachelor's degree from Wayne State University. He earned the equivalent of a doctoral degree from Oberlin's Graduate School of Theology in 1943, and did post-doctoral studies at the University of California. Before entering the seminary, Cleage was a social case worker with the Detroit Department of Public Welfare. With his divinity degree, Cleage led congregations in Lexington, Ken.; San Francisco, Cal.; and Springfield, Mass. before returning to Detroit in 1951 to become pastor at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church.
At St. Mark's, Cleage became concerned about the church's role in community affairs and the social issues of the time. In dispute with his denomination, Cleage left the church in 1953 taking with him 300 members who would become the core for a new church, St. Mark's Congregational Church. In 1954, St. Mark's would become Central Congregational Church.
Until 1954, Cleage and his parishioners held services at the Crossman School, but with a growing congregation he negotiated purchase of a mansion at 2254 Chicago Blvd. which would serve both as a parsonage and place to hold all church activities. The Church soon outgrew this location and the need to secure a large church became a major concern of the membership. The Brewster-Pilgrim Church located at 7625 Linwood was purchased in June 1957 with occupancy taking place in September of the same year.
As the Congregation grew, the membership under Cleage's leadership became increasingly involved in problems touching the lives of the African American community. Emphasis was placed on political involvement which was nurtured through the publication, beginning in 1960, of the Illustrated News, a newspaper devoted to the issues confronting the black community.
From the pulpit, Cleage began preaching sermons calling for the creation of a new black theology, and a new Black church to articulate that theology. Between 1967 and 1970 the church began restructuring the rituals, programs and structures of the traditional black church to conform to the Black Christian Nationalist philosophy. The name of Central Congregational Church was officially changed to the Shrine of the Black Madonna in 1970 by which time the first book written by Rev. Cleage was released. The Black Messiah published in 1968 was a series of powerful sermons introducing to the world a new Black theology. In 1972 Rev. Cleage published his second book, Black Christian Nationalism: New Direction for the Black Church. This book presented the complete program, position and philosophy of the black Christian Nationalist Movement. Around this same time, Cleage and other members began taking African names to distinguish themselves from the names given to them as slaves in bondage. Cleage would become Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.
The decade of the 70's was a time of rapid expansion of the Shrines of the Black Madonna. Early in 1974 a small College Cadre of young men and women moved to Atlanta, Georgia to enroll in Atlanta University and to begin the organization of a shrine. The following year in April fifteen buses and many cars transported hundreds of members to Atlanta for the BCN Convention marking the opening of Shrine Nine and the Southern Regional Office.
In 1977 the next expansion cadre opened Shrine Seven taking the BCN Program to Kalamazoo, Michigan. In that same year, selected men and women from Shrine One in Detroit and Shrine Nine in Atlanta agreed to go to Houston, Texas to open and operate what would become Shrine Ten and the New Southwest Regional Offices and Training Center. The first Pan-American Synod was held in Houston, Texas in 1978 and it here that the Shrine of the Black Madonna was established as a new denomination and adopting the name Pan-African Orthodox Christian Church. Over the next two decades, under Cleage's leadership, the denomination would hold conventions of the Synod and annual leadership conclaves, the purpose of which was to bring together the different geographic shrines for discussion of the church's theology and programs.
The 1980s and 1990s saw continued growth and the development of new programs. In 1981, began raising funds to purchase farmland in South Carolina to be used to develop a network of independent Black farms and which could also be used for youth and adult retreats and training. In 1999, 2600 acres of land was purchased in Abbeville County, South Carolina. The property was known as the Beulah Land Farm. Members from Detroit and elsewhere made decision to relocate there. Among them was Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.
In his life, Albert Cleage / Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman was married, had two daughters, and later divorced. He died at Beulah Land Farm on February 20, 2000.
- Acquisition Information:
- The collection was made available for microfilming by Kristin Cleage Williams and the Shrine of the Black Madonna National Office (donor no. 9897 ) in June 2007.
No further additions to the papers are expected.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
- Location of Originals:
The originals of the papers in this microfilm edition were held by the Church of the Black Madonna at the time of filming, but are now housed at the Bentley Historical Library.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
African American clergy -- Michigan -- Detroit.
African Americans -- Michigan -- Detroit.
African Americans -- Race identity.
Black nationalism -- United States.
Race relations -- Religious aspects -- Christianity -- United States.
Shrine of the Black Madonna (Detroit, Mich.)
Central Congregational Church (Detroit, Mich.)
Pan African Orthodox Christian Church.
St. Mark's Congregational Church (Detroit, Mich.)
Cleage, Albert B.
Christ, Jesus -- African American interpretations.
- Detroit (Mich.) -- Church history.
Using These Materials
The collection is open to research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright is not held by the Regents of the University of Michigan. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[item], folder, reel, Albert B. Cleage Jr. papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan