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Cleage, Albert B., Jr.

Cleage, Albert B., Jr.

June 13, 1911
February 20, 2000

Clergyman Albert B. Cleage, also known as Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, was born on June 13, 1911, and graduated from Wayne State University (Michigan) in 1937 with a degree in sociology. He received a divinity degree from Oberlin College in 1943, the year he married Doris Graham. (One of the two daughters of this union is the noted author Pearl Cleage). The couple divorced in 1955.

After serving as a Congregational minister in Kentucky, California, and Massachusetts, Cleage became pastor of Saint Mark's Community Church in Detroit, which was renamed Central United Church of Christ in 1953. There he became increasingly involved in political and community activism and grew convinced that white resistance blocked black advancement and that blacks could depend only on their own efforts. In 1967 Cleage unveiled a 20-foot portrait of a black Madonna with Jesus at his church and changed its name to Shrine of the Black Madonna.

This church became the mother church of the Black Christian Nationalist Movement, which called for economic self-sufficiency in the black community and presented Jesus as a black revolutionary. Other churches across the country came to espouse the same philosophy, and the movement soon numbered 50,000 members. Cleage expounded on his theology in The Black Messiah (1968) and Black Christian Nationalism (1972). In the early 1970s he adopted the name Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman. Cleage's political organization, Black Slate, Inc., became influential in Detroit politics, particularly in the 1973 election of Coleman Young as Detroit's first African-American mayor.

See also Pan-African Orthodox Church (The Shrine of the Black Madonna); Young, Coleman Alexander


"Albert Cleage is Dead at 88; Led Black Nationalist Church." New York Times, February 27, 2000.

Brennan, Carol. "Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman." In Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale, 1995.

robert l. johns (2001)

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