Pearl Cleage

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Pearl Cleage
Born (1948-12-07) December 7, 1948 (age 70)
Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
OccupationNovelist, essayist, playwright, poet
GenreAfrican-American literature
Notable worksWhat Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, Wish I Had a Red Dress, We Speak Your Names

Pearl Cleage (born December 7, 1948) is an African-American author of fiction and non-fiction. Her novel What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was a 1998 Oprah Book Club selection. Cleage is known for her feminist views, particularly regarding her identity as an African-American woman. Cleage teaches drama at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and is the Playwright in Residence at the Alliance Theatre.

Early life and career[edit]

Pearl Cleage was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Doris Cleage (née Graham), a teacher, and the late civil rights activist Bishop Albert Cleage. After backlash resulting from her father's radical teachings, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Bishop Cleage became a prominent civil rights leader. Cleage first attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1966, majoring in playwriting and dramatic literature. However, in 1969 she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend Spelman College, where she attained a bachelor's degree in drama in 1971. She then joined the Spelman faculty as a writer and playwright in residence and as a creative director.[1][2][3] Cleage has written many novels, plays, and non-fiction works borrowing heavily from her life experiences. Many of her novels are set in neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2013, Cleage became the Playwright in Residence at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta through the National Playwright Residency Program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by HowlRound.[4] The initial three-year term was renewed for an additional three years in 2016.[5][6] Cleage is documenting her residency with frequent writings in the HowlRound journal.[7]

Cleage notably writes about topics at the intersection of sexism and racism, specifically on issues such as domestic violence and rape in the black community.[8] She has been a supporter of the Obama administration.[1] Cleage is an activist for AIDS and women's rights, experiences from which she draws from for her writings.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In 1969, Cleage married Michael Lomax, an Atlanta politician and past-president of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. They had a daughter, Deignan Njeri. The marriage ended in divorce in 1979.[2] In 1994, Cleage married Zaron Burnett Jr., writer and director for the Just Us Theater Company. She has four grandchildren.[9]

Cleage is a former Cosby Endowed Chair professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She also speaks at colleges, universities, and conferences on topics including domestic violence, the citizen's role in a participatory democracy, and writing topics.[10]


  • 2013 Theatre Legend Award - Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
  • 1983 Five AUDELCO Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway, 1983
  • 2010 Sankofa Freedom Award



  • The Brass Bed and Other Stories (1991; ISBN 0-88378-127-1)
  • What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (1997; ISBN 0-380-97584-X)
  • I Wish I Had a Red Dress (2001; ISBN 0-694-52418-2)
  • Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do (2003; ISBN 0-345-45606-8)
  • Babylon Sisters: A Novel (2005; ISBN 0-345-45609-2)
  • Baby Brother's Blues (2006; ISBN 0-345-48110-0)
  • Seen It All and Done the Rest (2008; ISBN 0-345-48113-5)
  • Till You Hear From Me (2010; ISBN 0-345-50637-5)
  • Just Wanna Testify (2011; ISBN 0-345-50636-7)




See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McKanic, Arlene (May 31, 2010). "Pearl Cleage Talks Prose and Politics". The Root. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Seese, June Akers. "Pearl Cleage". The New Georgia Encyclopedia. A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  3. ^ "Pearle Cleage Biography". Film Reference: Theatre, Film, and Television Biographies. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  4. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Alliance Theatre Receives Grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation". Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  5. ^ "The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and HowlRound Announce $5.58 Million in Grants through the National Playwright Residency Program". April 5, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  6. ^ "Residencies". HowlRound. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  7. ^ "Pearl Cleage". HowlRound. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  8. ^ Cleage, Pearl (1994). Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-38871-2.
  9. ^ "Pearl's World: About Pearl". Pearl's Professional Website. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  10. ^ "Appearances". Pearl Cleage's Professional Website. Retrieved September 4, 2011.

External links[edit]