Pearl Cleage Biography

Pearl Cleage Biography

Pearl Cleage is an outspoken writer whose work deals mainly with African American issues from a feminist perspective. In one of her nonfiction collections, Deals With the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot, she included an essay called “Mad at Miles,” which blasts musician Miles Davis for his mistreatment of women. Cleage rose to fame after her 1997 book What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was featured as an Oprah's Book Club selection. Cleage also worked as a speechwriter for the first black mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson. She has written for many Atlanta newspapers and for Catalyst, a literary journal that she edits. Cleage’s degree is in drama, and she has written several plays in addition to her books, articles, and essays.

Facts and Trivia

  • Cleage has been the recipient of many awards, including the Bronze Jubilee Award for Literature in 1983.
  • Cleage’s 1995 play Blues for an Alabama Sky was presented during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • She is an activist for AIDS and women's rights, and she gives talks at universities about domestic violence and writing.
  • Cleage’s husband, Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., is also an author, and he often collaborates with her. They cowrote the poem “We Speak Your Names.”
  • Cleage doesn’t like to give advice about writing. “If I change my mind later,” she says, “there is hard evidence to remind me of whatever I said back then that turned out to be the worst advice ever.”

Biography

(Novels for Students)

Pearl Cleage (pronounced “cleg”) was born on December 7, 1948, in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Doris and Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. She was reared in Detroit, where her father’s ministry allowed her to hear speakers such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Cleage graduated from high school and then went to Howard University in Washington, D.C., during the turbulent 1960s. After three years, she transferred to Spelman College in Atlanta, where she graduated in 1971 with a degree in drama.

In 1969, Cleage married Michael Lomax, a politician. The marriage lasted ten years and produced a daughter named Deignan. Cleage remarried in 1994. Her second husband, Zaron Burnett, Jr., is a writer and producing director of Just Us Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia, where the couple met. Cleage was the theater’s first playwright- in-residence, and she and Burnett collaborated on several works after she became the artistic director in 1992. Another Atlanta theater, The Alliance Theater, is responsible for debuting some of Cleage’s most notable plays. Among these is Flyin’ West (1992), the play credited with gaining Cleage a widespread theatrical audience.

In her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (1997), Cleage depicts the life of Ava Johnson, a modern African-American woman struggling with her HIV-positive status. When this novel was selected for talk-show host Oprah Winfrey’s book club, Cleage reached a...

(The entire section is 381 words.)

Biography

(Drama for Students)

Pearl Michelle Cleage (pronounced ‘‘cleg’’) was born December 7, 1948, in Springfield, Massachusetts. She grew up in Detroit, where her father, a minister, founded his own denomination and became widely known for the fifteen-foot-high painting of the Black Madonna and Child, called the ‘‘Shrine of the Black Madonna,’’ which adorned his church. Cleage’s mother was a schoolteacher who, along with Cleage’s father, instilled in her a sense of responsibility to the African-American community. Cleage now describes her political orientation as that of an African-American Urban Nationalist Feminist Warrior.

Cleage studied drama and playwriting at a number of colleges and universities. She attended Howard University from 1966 until 1969, when she married Michael Lucius Lomax, an elected county official in Georgia (they were divorced ten years later). She attended Yale University in 1969 and the University of the West Indies in 1971. In 1971, she received a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College and enrolled in graduate courses at Atlanta University. During the 1970s, Cleage worked as a writer, producer, and talk show host for a number of radio and television stations in Atlanta, Georgia. She served as the director of communications for the city of Atlanta and as press secretary to Mayor Maynard Jackson, the city’s first African-American mayor.

From 1983 to 1987, Cleage was playwright-inresidence at the Just Us Theater Company in...

(The entire section is 471 words.)

Biography

(Drama for Students)

Pearl Cleage (pronounced ‘‘cleg’’) was born December 7, 1948, in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Doris and Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. She was reared in Detroit, where her father’s ministry allowed her to hear speakers such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Cleage graduated from high school and, during the turbulent 1960s, went to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she stayed for three years. She went to Yale University in 1969, then the University of the West Indies in 1971, and finally transferred to Spelman College in Atlanta, where she graduated in 1971 with a degree in drama. She also did graduate work at Atlanta University.

In 1969, Cleage married Michael Lomax, a politician. The marriage lasted ten years and produced a daughter named Deignan. Cleage remarried in 1994. Her second husband, Zaron Burnett, Jr., is a writer and producing director of Just Us Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia, where the couple met. Cleage was the theater’s first playwright-inresidence, and she and Burnett collaborated on several works after she became the artistic director in 1987. Another Atlanta theater, The Alliance Theater, is responsible for debuting some of Cleage’s most notable plays. Among these is Flyin’ West (1992), the play credited with gaining Cleage a widespread audience. The success of this play led to the production of Blues for an Alabama Sky in 1995.

Cleage is regarded as an important contemporary...

(The entire section is 380 words.)