Catholics of Color - Black and African American
The following selections illustrate historical perspective of primarily Black and African American Catholics. The primary subject matter deals with the era surrounding the abolition of slavery:
-Letter from Taney (Catholic) to Cushing about Dred Scott decision, 1857. This letter shows Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooks Taney, a Catholic Marylander, describing abolitionists as having little respect for the law and being ruled by passion rather than reason. While the penmanship of the primary document makes it difficult to read, this article provides the context for the letter.
- Dred Scott decision – newspaper report, 1857.
-Pope denounces slave trade, 1863.
-Frederick Douglass’ writes on Daniel O’Connell, Catholic whom he visited in Ireland and from whom he drew inspiration. O’ Connell refused money from slaveholders, would not shake a man’s hand if he owned a slave (p. 242-243). Further context for this account is provided at this site.
The following accounts (mostly transcriptions of primary sources) are primarily narratives illustrating the role of the Catholic Church in the lives of some slaves:
-Slave narrative of Octavia V. Rogers Albert, 1890. There are discussions of how Catholic masters interacted with their non-Catholic slaves. P. 69-70 discusses a particular incident where a priest broke the confessional when a slave said he wanted to be free. The opinion that Catholics were the worst of religions in reference to slavery and endorsed the Confederacy is expressed also.
-Scott Bond’s account – “From Slavery to Wealth,” 1917. Daniel A. Rudd helped him write it, a lay black Catholic who founded the National Black Catholic Congress. P. 344-348 on northern vs. southern blacks, Bond’s speech, Washington’s assurance to visit Arkansas.
-“James Theodore Holly” section of Maryland men slave narrative, 1914. Page 81 describes the ordination of the first black bishop of the historic churches with the understanding of creating a mission in Haiti.
-“William Wells Brown” narrative – my southern home, 1880. Pages 207-208 discuss the “brotherly love” displayed by the Cathedral in Richmond, even greater than one black preacher. The author states his opinion that Catholics have the “inside track” on making blacks a part of their congregations in the south.
-John Passmore Edwards and Frederick Douglass “Uncle Tom’s Companions…,” 1852. Pages 148-149 briefly mention that Catholics allow mixing of whites and blacks in the sanctuary, while Protestant churches do not.
-The Life of Bishop Walter Hawkins, 1891. Page xvii mentions that Catholics allow blacks in the sanctuary.
-Frederick Douglass account by James Gregory, 1893. Page 163 declares that no group persecutes people of color more adamantly than Irish Catholics, yet they had been severely persecuted themselves.
-George Henry’s narrative, 1894. Page 70 mentions the Catholic priests of the South’s willingness to educate slaves as opposed to the Protestants.
-Henry Norval Jeter – born a slave, became pastor later in life, 1901. Page 58 mentions willingness to have people of all class and color be received at the Catholic altar.
-Pierre Toussaint – born a slave on the island of St. Domingo, later freed in NYC, 1854. Pages 56-58 describe Toussaint’s integration of the faith into slave life, high moral standards, and devout Catholic faith. P. 108-109 discuss his faith as a free man in NYC. P. 114 – Helped Bishop Fenwick of Boston (Not in narrative). He was declared “blessed” in 1996 by JPII.
-John Dixon Long – Pictures of Slavery in Church, 1857. Pages 103-104 make the charge that Popery and Slavery are connected.
-Juan Francisco Manzano and Richard Robert Madden – slave narrative, 1840. Pages 144-149 discuss the origins of slavery and declares the connection between Popery and Slavery a myth.
-Mahommah G. Baquaqua narrative, 1854. Page 45 discusses master whipping slaves who are inattentive during family worship, Catholic.
-Abigail Mott’s narrative, 1826. Pages 112-114 tell of a Catholic priest’s failed attempt to have him join the church, including discussion of Apostolic succession and the keys of the kingdom.
-Pendleton’s narrative, 1912. Page 132 notes the work of the Oblate Sisters of Providence who opened a school for colored girls in Baltimore in 1829.
-Peter Randolph’s narrative, 1893. Page 117 notes how the Catholic Church took advantage of indifference towards people of color by traditional Protestant churches.
-“Men of Mark,” the Augustus Tolton section, pgs. 439-446, 1887. This biography declares him the first black Catholic priest in the U.S., although others suggest it was actually Charles Uncles, ordained in Baltimore.
-John Thompson’s narrative, 1856. Page 52 mentions his master’s dislike of him because he refused to go to Catholic prayers. His previous owner had been a Methodist.
-Captain Andre Cailloux – first black to die in the Civil War, part of LA Native Guard, and a Catholic, ca. 1887. This source discusses Cailloux starting at p.118. It is written in the 1880’s and quotes newspapers from the time of the Civil War. This secondary source provides greater context on his life.
The writings of Orestes Brownson:
-THE SLAVERY QUESTION ONCE MORE [From Brownson"s Quarterly Review for April, 1857.]
-Another writing on the abolition of slavery, 1864.
For transcriptions of many more of his primary sources, go to this site.
Greater context on this Catholic writer/philosopher/abolitionist can be found at this site.