Pearl Cleage, an Atlanta writer who has always had a special place in her heart for Cascade and the West End, once again has a place in history.
Pearl Cleage, the nationally recognized playwright, poet, novelist, social activist and Atlanta resident, has placed her papers at Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library. The collection is now open to researchers, according to a press release.
"Pearl Cleage exemplifies the creative life,” Rosemary Magee, vice president and secretary of Emory University said in a press release. “Her stories, poems and plays all display the imaginative interplay of lives in search of meaning. It is indeed an honor to have her papers at Emory."
Cleage's papers join those of other "brilliant African American women writers, artists and activists." These include Camille Billops, Elaine Brown, Lucille Clifton, Doris Derby, Samella Lewis, Louise Thompson Patterson, Mildred Thompson and Alice Walker, Randall K. Burkett, Emory’s curator of African American collections, said in the release.
Cleage is best known for her novels “What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day” (an Oprah Book Club selection) and “Babylon Sisters,” both of which are being adapted for film, as well as for her plays “Blues for an Alabama Sky” and “Flyin’ West.” An Atlanta resident, Cleage earned a bachelor’s in drama from Spelman College in 1969.
Her latest theatrical production, “What I Learned in Paris,” is running Sept. 5-30 at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, where she is in residence as its first artist in dialogue.
Cleage has had a multi-faceted career as educator, speechwriter, journalist, novelist, poet and playwright. Her papers include writings, correspondence, printed material, photographs and audiovisual material. Manuscript and typescript drafts of her writings will enable scholars to see the formation of her craft.
Of particular note are letters written to her father, mother and other family members from the time she enrolled at Howard University in 1967 and continuing through the 1980s. There are also rare issues of her family-edited biweekly, Illustrated News, as well as a complete set of the periodical Catalyst: A Magazine of Heart and Mind, of which she was the founder and editor. And the collection includes extensive documentation of her long collaboration with her husband, writer Zaron W. Burnett Jr.
Cleage and author Alice Walker will take part in a Creativity Conversation, moderated by author and University of Georgia professor Valerie Boyd and hosted by Magee, at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Emory's Cannon Chapel.