Pearl Cleage, playwright, artistic director, essayist and novelist


Pearl Cleage
Date: 
Tue, 1948-12-07

Pearl Cleage, an African American writer, was born in Springfield, MA, on this date in 1948.

She grew up in Detroit, where her father, Albert Cleage, was a minister who founded the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church. He also ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 on the Freedom Ticket. He later became a Black Nationalist and changed his name to Jaramogi Abebe Agyemen. Her mother, Doris, was an elementary school teacher. An academically gifted student in high school, Pearl Michelle Cleage enrolled at Howard University in 1966, where she studied writing for theater and had two one-act plays produced.

She left Howard in 1969 at the age of 20 to marry Michael Lomax, an Atlanta politician. The two divorced in 1979. Upon graduating in 1971 from Spelman College, Pearl Cleage worked at a number of media jobs including hosting a local, Black-oriented interview program as well as being director of communications for the city of Atlanta and press secretary for Mayor Maynard Jackson.

Cleage began playwriting in the 1980s with productions of Puppetplay, Hospice, Good News, and Essentials. At the time she wrote essays for Essence, the New York Times Book Review, Ms., Black World, and other national magazines.

In 1990 and 1991, she published her essays in "Mad at Miles and Deals with the Devil." Also during this time, Cleage gained national attention as a playwright with her play "Flyin' West" at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, "Blues for an Alabama Sky," and "Bourbon at the Border."

She currently is Playwright in Residence at Spelman College, the editor of Catalyst, and artistic director of Just Us Theater Company. She has received grants from the National Education Association (NEA), the City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs, and the Georgia Council for the Arts.

Pearl Cleage has written a novel, "What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day," an Oprah Book Club selection.

Reference:
"Pearl Cleage."
Elsie B. Washington
Essence v.24 September 1993.

"Pearls of Wisdom."
Tara Roberts
Essence v.28 December 1997.

To be a Writer

Person / name: 

Cleage, Pearl