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November is Black Catholic History Month

This holiday was founded by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus in 1990. It honors the legacy and unique worship of Black members of the Catholic Church. This month was chosen for its inclusion of the birthdays of Saint Martin de Porres and Saint Augustine in addition to the Brazilian celebration of Zumbi (dos Palmares), an important figure for Afro-Brazilians. Check out this timeline of Black Catholic history from the National Black Catholic Congress. For Catholics, this is a month to honor the lives of canonized Black people and reflect on their importance of shaping a church that is culturally diverse. For scholars, it is also a time to research the history of Catholics in Africa. It is also important not only to recognize the contributions of figures of African descent, but also to consider the legacy of predominantly black parishes

The Catholic religious tradition includes a legacy of social justice. This month, one should honor that history by studying those clergy who were active in the Civil Rights movement. Although he was a Baptist minister who is remembered for his interracial efforts, and often overlooked part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategy was interreligious activism. Read more about Catholic participation in Selma here. Considering that it is an essential aspect of the Church to serve the community, it is important that observations like Black Catholic History Month are celebrated- as they encourage a reflection on fellowship and faith. Read more from this interview with Matthew Cressler, author of Authentically Black and Truly Catholic.

Members of the St. Augustine Gospel Choir sing during Mass in Washington. (CNS photo by Daphne Stubbolo/Archdiocese of Washington)

Looking for Digital Library Resources?

Ebooks

  • A Cry for Justice : Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism, and Activism, 1854-1933
  • Healing the Racial Divide : A Catholic Racial Justice Framework Inspired by Dr. Arthur Falls
  • Radical Disciple : Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justice by Robert McClory
  • Father Groppi : Marching for Civil Rights, edited by Stuart Stopps
  • Afro-Catholic Festivals in the Americas : Performance, Representation, and the Making of Black Atlantic Tradition, edited by Cecile Fromont
  • Remapping the History of Catholicism in the United States

Journals

  • The Catholic Historical Review
  • Social Forces
  • American Catholic Sociological Review
  • Black Theology: An International Journal
  • Journal of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium

Databases

  • Atla Religion Database (Atla RDB) with AtlaSerials (Atlas)
  • Research in Ministry
  • Catholic Archive Collection (ARCC)

Tips for Browsing the Stacks

General discussion of the Catholic Church covers call number range BX800-4795. When searching the catalogue, use subject headings African American Catholics or Catholics–United States in combination with United States — Race relations.

Selections from the Children’s Section

  • Dorothy Day: Friend to the Forgotten by Deborah Kent
  • Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter
  • Little Melba and Her Big Trombone Katheryn by Russell-Brown
  • Marching For Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary By Elizabeth Partridge

Selections from the Social Justice Collection

  • Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell
  • Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio
  • The Cambridge Companion to the Harlem Renaissance
  • Memoirs of the Spirit: American Religious Autobiography from Jonathan Edwards to Maya Angelou
  • Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation

In Need of Some Primary Sources?

Explore the digital archives from Xavier University, the only traditionally Catholic HBCU in the U.S. 
Listen to an oral history series on Norman C. Francis, a veteran and former president of XULA. 
Watch some archival footage from the National Office of Black Catholics (NOBC) collection of St. Thomas University. Explore the Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation Project from the the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States

Resources on Current Activism

Listen to this podcast from the Black Catholic Messenger, an online publication by and for Catholics of African descent. 
Read a recap of the 2021 Black Catholic Theological Symposium at the University of Notre Dame.
Explore these resources from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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