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Race and Catholicism in American History

Summary and Keywords

Catholicism, as both an institution and a culture of popular beliefs, rituals, and values, has played an important role in the formation of racial boundaries in American society. The logic of race and its inherent function as a mechanism of social power, in turn, profoundly shaped Catholic thought and practice throughout the church’s own 400-year formation in America. Beginning with colonization of the New World, Catholicism defined and institutionalized racial difference in ways that both adhered to and challenged the dominant Anglo-American conceptions of whiteness as a critical measure of social belonging. Early Catholic missions abetted European colonialism by codifying Africans and Native Americans as cultural and moral “others.” Following a “national parish” system, institutional growth from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century sorted various European “races” and created spaces for resisting Anglo-American discrimination. The creation of a separate and singular mission for all “non-white” communities nonetheless reflected Catholic acquiescence to an American racial binary.

Intra-Catholic challenges to racialist organization struggled to gain traction until the mid-20th century. As second- and third-generation European immigrants began asserting white status in American society, Catholic understandings of sacred space, which infused white resistance to neighborhood integration with religious urgency, and hierarchical ordering of moral authority within an institution that historically excluded non-whites from positions of influence created significant barriers to Catholic interracialism. The influence of the civil rights movement and the structural transformation of both Catholic life and urban communities where non-whites lived nonetheless prompted new efforts to enlist Catholic teaching and community resources into ongoing struggles against racial oppression. Debates over the meaning of race and American society and social policy continue to draw upon competing histories of the American Catholic experience.

Keywords: African American religion, Native American religion, Catholicism, immigration, religion and slavery, race and ethnicity, Irish Americans

There is no Latin word for “race.” So discovered one American bishop preparing a statement at the Second Vatican Council in Rome. Convened in 1962, the Council’s mandate to bring the Roman Catholic Church into better communication and engagement with modern social and cultural struggles encouraged American Catholic leaders grappling with the rise of social unrest back home. The emergence of direct-action protest and resistance in the early 1960s amplified African Americans’ historic demands for desegregation, equal voting rights, and economic opportunity. Meanwhile, organized and often-violent white resistance to civil rights activists and court-ordered desegregation began drawing media attention from around the world. If Catholic citizens could be found leading the charge on both sides, it was their prominence among the white resistance that most troubled the bishops and interracial allies who sought a more effective and unified Catholic response to the racial tensions spreading from southern pews to northern streets. “Race” in the form of individual and institutional discrimination, they argued, must join the vocabulary of the Catholic social teaching that emerged from the Council.1

The notion that the Catholic Church discovered “race” in the mid-20th century reveals important truth about race’s ability to shape the Catholic moral imagination from the colonial era to the present. We must take “discovery” to mean Catholics’ recognition of the intrinsic connection between the logic of race (the differentiation of human beings into groups believed to share common genetic and cultural traits on the basis of skin color and other designated physical features) and its material objective (the empowerment or subjugation of groups on the basis of these ascribed categories). Various mechanisms of state authority, local custom and ritual, and cultural influence enact this subjugation by withholding material and political resources and social status claimed by other groups. In 1790 the US Congress established the line between “all free white persons” and all others as the criteria for citizenship. Even as full and effective citizenship extended—haltingly, and through various pathways of violent and nonviolent conflict—to more individuals over the course of American history, “whiteness” remains a critical measure of social belonging.2 While no longer grounded in biology, race continues to bear an air of naturalness that conceals its inherent function in guiding exploitative social policies and customs.

As both culture and institution, Catholicism has naturalized race in significant ways through much of its American history. Well into the 20th century, Catholic administrators and social scientists referred to the “races” of European Catholic immigrants whose desire for separate church and residential communities reflected a mutual need for social coherence and economic stability.3 Prior to the 1950s, neither Catholic social reformers nor American liberalism as a whole specifically addressed racial oppression. Catholic social ethics largely focused on issues of economic distress facing industrial working classes. The groundbreaking 1891 Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum sought to stem the tide of working-class defections to socialism by calling for a living wage and the right of workers’ associations to advocate for it. The 1931 encyclical Quadragessimo Anno reinforced Catholics’ vision of a cooperative society among economic classes of owners and employees. The New Deal of the 1930s reflected this vision while demonstrating the growth of Catholic political influence in American society.4 Its expansion of state authority to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens nonetheless failed to address discrimination based upon race. In the Deep South especially, federal aid continued to pass through local white administrators whose resistance to racial liberalism mirrored that of most Catholic leaders.

The horrors wrought by the Nazi regime of 1930s and 1940s Germany, combined with the wartime experience of African Americans who demanded the end of racial oppression at home, brought new attention to race within the institutional church and American society at large. Interracial coalitions’ attention to the “race problem” was made even more urgent by the Cold War imperative to enact the American promise of freedom and equality for all citizens. Among the first to sound the alarm against Communism were Catholic leaders who challenged the racial premises of both American and totalitarian societies. Yet even as Catholic interracial leadership sought to define a more universalist collective identity among Catholic and American citizens alike, many Euro-American Catholics in the pews began to appropriate a white status and privilege that they had only tenuously held in previous decades. Their own discovery of race undermined efforts to grapple with the church’s own deep history of race formation and oppression.

An examination of identity formation and development of particular communities—including Native American, Latino/a, and Asian American—remains a necessary task for historians, but the focus here is on how Catholic communities variously created, reinforced, undermined, and often defined themselves in terms of racial boundaries in American society.

Scholars of American Catholicism who argue for the centrality of Catholic institutions and communities to our understanding of American history do more than simply highlight Catholics’ presence in the nation’s larger political and social movements. At their best, they examine how distinctly Catholic institutional structures and moral imagination came to shape these movements. Catholics have encountered and enacted race in at least two distinct ways. First, Catholicism’s hierarchical institutional structure, through which clergy mediated the community’s relationship to the divine and established universal moral and ritual norms, has historically challenged the individualism and democratic premises of the dominant Anglo-Protestant culture.5 Catholic hierarchism also promoted a shared institutional fidelity and identity among members that could, alternatively, transcend and reinforce racial and national identities. Enforced through the power of priests and bishops, Catholic papal teachings condemning racism and advancing universal Christian unity could enable oppressed groups to confront and uproot local racial hierarchies and customs. Nonetheless, through much of its history in the United States, the Catholic hierarchy institutionalized race through the denial of access to positions of authority and the structuring of church communities and organizations around racialized identities.

Second, Catholic moral imagination is strongly defined by what scholars call “sacramentality,” or the idea of the sacred as manifest in physical spaces and objects.6 As historians in fields ranging from European–Native American encounters to the Jim Crow South demonstrate, power is often exercised through the definition (often through religious myth and ritual) and control of physical space.7 Segregated societies may create a cultural discourse of racial difference through media, myth, and other narrative forms that empower stereotypes, promote fear, and generate taboos. But they enact these, making race real, by restricting and policing access to specific places, including buses, swimming pools, movie theaters, neighborhoods, water fountains, and voter registrars’ offices. These processes intersected with Catholic sacramentality in highly consequential ways. Catholic understandings of the sacred as embodied or real in ritually designated places, especially ethnic Catholic neighborhoods centered on particular parishes, could infuse the enforcement of racial boundaries with religious urgency. Integrated Catholic spaces, from parishes to religious devotions in public spaces, could nonetheless subvert the racial geography of a segregated society while undermining a discourse of “white” Christianity that enabled racial oppression.

Colonization and Creolization

From their first contact with Native Americans, Catholic institutions shaped the New World’s racial landscape through their support of European colonial enterprises. Spanish, French, and English Catholic colonists who settled the modern-day United States and Latin America supported missionary endeavors to Native American communities while importing African slave labor. Missions, in turn, justified colonial enterprises that exploited Native American and African labor by casting them as noble efforts to win souls to the Catholic faith. Despite the emphasis often placed on missionary-influenced conversion, however, communities often resisted racial oppression by claiming and defining Catholic ritual and identity in ways that both adapted to and challenged the racial caste system intrinsic to European colonization.

Spanish transformation of New World society entailed the development of an elaborate Sistema de Castas that organized social relations within a hierarchy based upon skin color. From earliest European contact, social intermixing complicated the three major racial categories of Iberians (peninsulares), Amerindians (indios), and African slaves (negros). Mestizo and mulatto citizens occupied new categories within an elaborate pyramid that even placed Spanish persons born in America (criollos) below the European-born. Missionary endeavors emanating from Mexico City recreated this system while incorporating Indian neophytes into Spanish society. Indians who converted occupied an elevated racial group above the native barbaros.8 The essential challenge of missionary life, according to one Franciscan missionary in California, was “how to transform a savage race . . . into a society that is human, Christian, civil and industrious.”9 Spanish Franciscans created a system of “reductions,” spaces that separated Indian converts from both European settlers and unconverted Indians while enacting a process of “civilizing” converts into the social customs and values of European Spanish society. As scholars note, missionaries explained unsuccessful missions in terms that linked physical features such as dark skin to “heathen” minds unfit for full Christianization.10

In New France, the earliest ill-fated efforts created legends of the famous Jesuit martyrs. Stories of their path to sainthood through torture and death intensified European-Catholic images of the “savage” other. In contrast to the Spanish, however, the French “indigenist” approach involved bringing religious faith into the culture and routines of their spiritual charges. French settlers created more fluid spaces through which they sought to negotiate social and spiritual boundaries while winning converts to the faith.11 In both cases, Native American converts based their decisions to attend ceremonies or accept conversion on various needs and circumstances. While conversion often meant severing ties to traditional kinship networks and spiritual identity, Native American converts understood and utilized conversion in ways that secured their protection and self-interest while enabling social mobility. Conversion and intermarriage created generations of mestizo or Creole Catholics whose status as citizens complicated the more racially defined categories of citizenship that characterized English colonial life.

The range of meanings and motives attending conversion likewise shaped the social and religious world created by African slaves and free persons of color in the New World. In French Louisiana, the 1724 Code Noir required owners to baptize slaves into the Catholic faith. The prominence of Catholicism among the region’s slave and free population suggests the law’s success and the slave owners’ motives for conversion as a means of controlling the slave population. Scholars debate this point. Many enslavers could view Catholic conversion and practice as a means of maintaining submission of slaves. But the uneven rates of conversion in the 1730s and 1740s and the predominance of women among the converts in a community that was over two-thirds men suggest a different set of agents involved in the conversion process. Recent scholarship reveals the extent to which women of color themselves sought conversion and influenced the proliferation of Catholicism in the region. The Ursulines, an order of women religious who largely oversaw the region in this period, sponsored confraternities of women of color that orchestrated what scholars call a “creolization” of religious life in the region. Their native Senegambian region was not only familiar with French and Catholic traditions but maintained religious communities where women played prominent roles as “sacred practitioners.” This experience predisposed them to taking on leadership roles in Catholic conversion that defied both patriarchal ordering of Catholic life and the racial order that accompanied Anglo-American influence over the region in the century that followed.12

The female and transatlantic character of Catholic identity likewise affected the English colonial experience, where the slaves understood conversion and Catholic practice in ways that often challenged colonial interests. The traditional debate over slave conversion often emphasizes enslavers’ control over access to Christian practice while questioning the degrees to which African religious ritual and cosmology survived the violent uprooting of communities from Africa to America. Efforts to prove or disclaim this “spiritual holocaust” can obscure the extent to which religious and cultural exchange occurred over the centuries prior to enslavement. The case of the 1739 Stono rebellion in South Carolina is particularly revealing in terms of how various West African communities appropriated, rejected, and adapted European Christianity. Slaves who orchestrated the revolt came from the Kingdom of Kongo, whose monarch converted to Catholicism in 1491 and initiated widespread conversion and education in Catholic teaching and practice. By the early 1700s, efforts to resist colonial oppression in the region gave rise to an indigenous Catholic movement centered on the charisma of a woman named Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita. The Antonian Movement rejected the image of a white Christ and Holy Family while encouraging devotion to St. Anthony and the Virgin Mary. Slaves who arrived in South Carolina carried these devotions with them, igniting a revolt against Protestant enslavers on an important feast of the Virgin Mary.13

The power of Marian imagery and devotion in resisting colonial oppression was certainly not unique to this community. Its ability to disrupt racial caste is perhaps most prominent in the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. For Mexican communities, the image of and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe became the enduring symbol of a racial and cultural mestizaje. The devotion emerged from a 1560s account of the appearance of the Virgin Mary to a Nahua peasant in 1531. Her dark skin and use of the Nahua language as one of the native community offered indigenous communities an important claim to Catholic rite and identity independent of the violent conquest and conversion at the hands of Spanish missionaries. For Native Mexican and mestizo communities in the Southwest—indeed, throughout the nation into the present day—Guadalupe joined a number of devotional practices that challenged the “white” Christianity of both Catholic and Protestant missionaries moving west.14

Even as formal Catholic institutions reflected this strict racial hierarchy, they could also provide important avenues for resistance, most notably among communities of women religious that formed in the early 19th century. After a small but unsuccessful attempt to organize free women of color in Kentucky in 1824, four Haitian refugees formed a community in Baltimore under the guidance of a French priest. The four women who took vows in 1829 became the Oblate Sisters of Providence.15 In 1842, Henriette Delille and a group of women from a substantial and prominent population of free persons of color formed the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans. Free black women of color enlisted willing clergymen to serve both free and enslaved persons of African descent. Throughout their early life, however, the Sisters of the Holy Family faced public ridicule and abuse. Not until 1872 did they attempt to wear traditional religious habits typical of a female religious order. They gained permission to do so only by circumventing the archbishop of New Orleans, who considered the habits a marker of status above that given to women of color. Women of color who joined religious orders would continue to wear the veil against the racialization of Catholic authority.16

The westward advance of Anglo-American society, which imposed a more rigid black/white racial divide in social custom and civil code, challenged the Creole and mestizo legacy of former French and Spanish societies. Anglo-Americans who visited Louisiana in the mid-19th century registered both marvel and frustration at the region’s complex multiracial order.17 This frustration only intensified in the aftermath of the Mexican American War and the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that incorporated Mexican, Native, and mestizo Catholics who resided in the newly acquired western territories from Texas to California. American wartime propaganda fused anti-Catholic and anti-Mexican messages. The hierarchical and superstitious nature of Catholic faith evidenced the intellectual and cultural inferiority of the region’s inhabitants.18 A racially charged anti-Catholic discourse also undermined the tenuous social status of Irish Catholic immigrants, whose own alleged inferiority complicated Anglo-America’s historic privileging of white skin as a measure of legitimate citizenship. The European Catholic struggle for “white” status would converge with Catholic leaders’ predominately anti-abolitionist stance in the slavery debate to lead American Catholics to acquiesce to the nation’s predominate racial order.

Slavery and the Catholic Racial “Other”

As with American Protestant communities, slavery and the moral dilemmas that it provoked not only divided Catholic communities but shaped their conception of racial difference beyond slavery’s demise after the Civil War. With some important exceptions, Catholics’ response to the peculiar institution ranged from overt support for slavery to a qualified resistance that reflected fears of immediate emancipation and the social radicalism of many abolitionists. This verified abolitionists’ own suspicion of Catholicism, which they equated with a form of intellectual and moral slavery. Viewing Catholic citizens as a growing threat to republican society, abolitionists contributed to a larger anti-Catholic culture that merged religious conflict with racialized fears of new waves of European Catholic immigrants. If these immigrants eventually staked their claim as racial insiders in American society, this process of “becoming white” remained uneven and complex well into the 20th century.

Catholic religious orders, including the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Maryland and the Ursulines in New Orleans, owned slaves well into the mid-19th century. Maryland Jesuits based their decision to end slavery on primarily economic concerns. After sending one group to Missouri in 1823 to support Indian missions, they sold the remainder to Louisiana in 1838.19 While Pope Gregory the XVI condemned the slave trade in 1838, Bishop John England of Charleston continued to defend the practice of domestic slavery as consistent with Catholic tradition and scripture. The editors of prominent Catholic journals, the Boston Pilot and New York’s Freeman’s Journal denounced abolitionism as a plot to generate widespread social unrest and one that desired “the extermination of Catholics by fire and sword.”20 Archbishop John Hughes of New York declared that while the condition of slavery was “evil,” it “is not an absolute and unmitigated evil.”21 Some southern Catholic leaders went so far as to declare slavery the “manifest will of God” that saved “from the barbarity of their ferocious customs thousands of children of the race of Canaan.”22

While the Vatican denounced such statements, even American Catholic leaders most sympathetic to abolitionism had few theological resources. Nineteenth-century Catholic moral theology generally focused on individual behavior within particular communities rather than the sinfulness of political and economic systems themselves. The leading American theologian, Francis Patrick Kenrick, directed enslavers to exercise their Christian duty toward their slaves. Catholic masters “might distinguish themselves as just and kind, and might assuage the condition of their slaves by their generosity and their concern for their salvation.” Writing in 1841, Kenrick grounded his position in biblical precedent. He never questioned whether chattel slavery, as practiced in the United States, could ever be practiced morally. Kenrick’s concern for social order overshadowed such distinctions. He warned abolitionists who, “seeking to subvert all order in their desire for generosity, make the situation of their slaves more difficult.”23 Kenrick also reflected a broader Catholic critique of liberal individualism in 19th-century Europe and the United States. Like Hughes, he argued that slavery fit within a broader Catholic worldview that subsumed individual freedom and identity within one’s communal membership. The master-slave relationship was just one among many natural hierarchical relationships through which true human freedom could be attained, he contended.24

Upper class and intellectual Catholics among both lay and clergy shared the theologian’s concern for social disorder attending immediate emancipation. Most scholars of Catholics’ anti-abolitionist attitudes have nonetheless directed more attention to the racial attitudes of working-class immigrant Catholics. Studies of Irish America in the 19th century especially highlight the social and economic position of poor immigrants who not only sensed wage competition from African American workers but appropriated American racial logic through which they might gain social and psychological advantage. Irish sought to deflect discrimination and position themselves as “white” Americans through various mechanisms of cultural and political discourse. This included the creation and participation in blackface minstrel shows that unified and defined an industrial working-class white culture vis-à-vis the “largely worthless and ineffectual” black characters that these shows invented.25

These efforts to “become white,” however, still remained subject to the dominant Anglo-American culture’s ability to constrict social and political membership by redefining whiteness in more narrow terms. America’s first naturalization law of 1790 declared “that all free white persons” migrating to the United States and meeting certain residency requirements “shall be entitled to the rights of citizenship.” The equation of citizenship and the “capacity for self-government” with all white skin remained unquestioned until the 1840s when the Great Famine in Ireland forced a new population of poor Irish Catholic immigrants to the nation’s shores. As Matthew Frye Jacobson notes, nativists’ need to restrict social and political membership from the “Celtic” and other undesirable races prompted an “alternative racial appellation” for free white persons worthy of full citizenship. In 1859, one Anglo-American traveler to a Catholic parish introduced the terms “English race” and “Anglo-Saxon” into his description of an Irish community where “intelligence [was] in so small a proportion to the number of faces.” By the mid-19th century, early American founders’ disdain for the superstitious and intellectually vapid quality of Catholic worship had fused with Anglo-American racial anxieties. Catholicism itself became an inherent racial trait that threatened republican virtue.26

Catholic immigrants’ experiences of social dislocation and oppression created a desire to organize religious and social institutions in ways that recreated their homeland and empowered communities. The institutional church reflected the desire of these communities to maintain common language and custom as it created a distinctly Catholic social and religious infrastructure of churches, schools, orphanages, and hospitals in their new home. Its creation of the “national parish” model challenged many church leaders who sought a more thorough integration of Catholics into the English-speaking mainstream. But if it failed to assimilate Catholics into American social and political life in the ways these leaders wanted, it also inured Catholics to the patterns of racial organization guiding American life into the 20th century.

Institutionalizing Race

The period between the 1890s and 1930s encompassed the most systematic efforts to define and enforce racial division in the United States. The Catholic Church played a critical role in the institutionalization of racial boundaries in both the Deep South and the urban North. By creating separate parishes and apostolates for black Catholics and restricting membership of African Americans from the ranks of clergy, the institutional church facilitated the rise of Jim Crow laws and customs in the South. The hierarchy justified their creation as an extension of its “national parish” system. As opposed to the traditional organization of Catholic churches to serve particular territories regardless of nationality or language, the national parish allowed separate church communities for German, Polish, Irish, Italian, and other European immigrant groups. If each nationality could turn to its own parish for vital community resources and stability, they reasoned, so too would African Americans benefit from a separate parish system. The move infuriated Creole and African American leaders who supported multiracial church spaces and defined much of Louisiana’s Catholic ritual life since before the Civil War. These church spaces and the exigencies of Jim Crow society nonetheless gave rise to a separate apostolate for black and Indian Americans. This apostolate and the larger racialist model that defined Catholic parish life in the early 20th century set an important precedent and obstacle for later efforts to create a more universal Catholic identity and practice.

The rise of national parishes handed so-called “Americanist” Catholic leaders a significant defeat. Led by James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore and Bishop John Ireland of Minnesota, Americanists hoped to assimilate Catholic immigrants into mainstream American institutions, including public schools. The arrival of several waves of new European immigrant groups, however, shifted the institution’s focus toward securing and maintaining the religious loyalties of these immigrants while caring for their immediate needs. In resisting racial segregation, Black Catholics in the Deep South had found an important ally in Americanist voices. One New Orleans contingent in 1890 praised John Ireland for his condemnation of racial division in the United States. Ireland, black leaders lauded, “was prepared to say that there was no such thing as a color line except in the minds of those whose intellects were clouded by unjust reasoning.”27 New Orleans’s black Catholic leadership spearheaded resistance to segregation in their defense of Homer Plessy. The resulting Plessy v. Ferguson decision declared “separate but equal” accommodations constitutional and solidified Jim Crow in southern society until the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Creole leaders’ defeat in Plessy hardened their response to the ongoing creation of segregated Catholic churches. Mid-19th century visitors had marveled at the tripartite fusion of African American, white, and Creole worshiping together at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. “White children and black, with every shade in between, knelt side by side.” But by the 1920s, even the Archbishop of New Orleans strongly denied that “the Lord ever intended that the races should fraternize.”28 For church officials the “national parish” that supported so many immigrant Catholics justified the segregation of African Americans. The 1895 opening of St. Katherine’s Parish in New Orleans signaled the church’s commitment to a black-white racial binary that denied even the one-eighth black Homer Plessy full rights as a citizen. Several new “Negro” parishes followed. Many were simply begun in the old chapel left behind by new parish constructions projects. After enlisting all congregants’ support for building a new church, one black churchgoer recalled, the parish would pull a “bait and switch” by giving them the old church.29

Multiracial churches still persisted but became a critical venue for southern whites enforcing racial boundaries. The physical segregation of black from white within the intimate spaces of the Catholic liturgy insulted and humiliated many African American and Creole Catholics who had supported these churches for generations. Some arrived at churches one morning to find their names removed from front pews before being directed to benches at the rear of the church. Expectations that African Americans receive communion last, face white congregants’ wrath for kneeling at the wrong pew, and participate in separate preparations for sacraments—dramatic shifts from an earlier generation—drove many from the Catholic Church. Those who remained in segregated spaces or helped build separate “black” parishes may have accommodated the new system, but they hardly acquiesced to racial logic defining Catholic life. Their engagement with white Catholic missionaries who ministered to black Catholics reflected their efforts to enact a more socially engaged and universalist Catholic vision, often in ways that challenged missionaries themselves.

The creation of the “Commission for Catholic Missions among the Colored People and Indians” as a single apostolate for all nonwhite Catholics solidified the racial organization of Catholic life through much of the 20th century. In 1891, Katharine Drexel of Philadelphia founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS) to serve both African American and Native American communities. Joining the SBS was the Society of Saint Joseph (or “Josephites”). Both created a system of churches and schools throughout the South and West. The racial legacy of this apostolate remains a subject of historical debate. African Americans who attended Josephite parishes and SBS schools used their resources to challenge political and social discrimination in a number of ways. Beyond the educational and professional training these schools offered, black Catholic activism transformed them into schools for labor and political rights. In Louisiana, Josephite parishes hosted meetings of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union and hosted voter registration drives. Sociologists who calculated the influence of these Catholic communities noted the ways black Catholics could use the social prestige and white status of priests and women religious to achieve their political goals.30

Separate institutions for African and Native Americans nonetheless adhered to the dominant legal and cultural norms of a segregated society. Neither the SBS nor the Josephites recruited or lived with their missionary charges. One prominent Josephite, John Gillard, reminded his readers that “the Catholic Church is primarily a religious institution to teach men how to save their souls . . . and only secondarily a social reform or social institution.” Missionary writings also typified early-20th-century assumptions about the essential cultural differences between white and nonwhite Americans. In contrast to white congregations, Gillard added, the distinct religious experience of black southerners was “fundamentally emotional rather than rational.” The unique religious disposition of black southerners, rooted in centuries of oppression, necessitated a “natural separation” of churches through which African American southerners would learn the discipline of Catholic practice. Missionaries, he warned, must “translate the sublimities and intricacies of dogmatic theology into the simplest language.”31

Gillard’s racial views informed the resistance that many engaged in the “Negro Apostolate” had toward the ordination of African American priests and the full vowed members of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. The denial of Native American and African American access to the ranks of priests and women religious frustrated African American activists as well as the Vatican, which urged a more “indigenous clergy” in a 1926 statement by Pius XI, Rerum Ecclesiae. Stating that it would be a “grievous mistake” to condemn those served by these missions as an “inferior race,” Vatican officials who supported the creation of an African American seminary and even “bishops for the colored people” ran headlong into opposition from American officials. Gillard warned African Americans against placing too much emphasis on black ordination as a means of racial progress. Despite Josephites’ early success in ordaining three men to the priesthood, hostile southern bishops brought the Josephite “experiment” to heel. In 1923, another order, the Society of the Divine Word, erected a seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, to train African American clergymen.32

While Josephites in the Deep South invoked the sense of a “natural color-line, which . . . accords with the wishes of both races,” the Catholic institution in the urban North nurtured the wishes of what it considered the many races. Through much of the early 20th century, national parishes served communities bound by national origin and language. These parishes functioned independently of one another in all practical matters, undermining traditional diocesan organization of churches around specific territories. They also undermined Euro-American Catholic assimilation into a more homogeneous “white” America. One 1920 Carnegie Foundation survey noted that the “great mass” of Catholic immigrants “belong to racial churches of their own.” As late as the 1940s, Catholic officials would take note of “the relations between the various racial groups” whose parish territories intersected with one another across the urban landscape.33

Catholic hierarchism and sacramentality created a sense of permanence to both religious spaces and distinctive racial identity that congregants attached to it. The institutional Church, not congregants themselves, organized and owned parishes. This anchored Catholics to particular urban neighborhoods, where Catholic emphasis on sacred ritual space of the parish further enhanced the “immovable” and physically placed nature of their religious identity. Even after social policies and black migration to the North around World War II prompted white movement to the suburbs, Catholics’ commitment to their parish-centered neighborhoods and the centralized ownership of urban spaces by Catholic dioceses slowed this process for Catholics in comparison with Protestant and Jewish congregations. This distinctly Catholic commitment to the physical spaces of urban America could provide important resources for African Americans fleeing the South in wartime but also generate the most overt hostility to demographic transformation. As historian John McGreevy notes, Catholic parishes created a sense of territory and solidarity that both fostered community and “proved unable to separate ‘community’ from racial mythology” at important moments in 20th-century American history.34

While African Americans fleeing the segregated South challenged this urban Catholic landscape as early as the 1920s, World War II–era mobilization dramatically threatened what once seemed “immovable.” As scholars note, the war that encouraged a new trans-ethnic solidarity among white Americans also removed many previously held social and spiritual boundaries. Catholic communities began to form around a sense of shared religion as opposed to distinctly ethnic cohorts. Even Latino groups who moved into the urban North in the 1940s and 1950s benefited from this shift. While subject to some of the same discrimination facing African Americans, scholarship suggests that Mexicans’, Puerto Ricans’, and Cubans’ common religious practice within Catholic parishes created a more hospitable climate than for African Americans who only infrequently encountered the white community.35

This new shared Catholicism infused efforts to resist African American housing rights throughout the urban North. Opponents of neighborhood integration, with the backing of many parish priests, couched their anti-black position within an explicit defense of the neighborhood’s Catholic character. As they did so they began to invoke dominant Anglo-American understanding of race, stressing fundamental cultural and social distinctions between black and white Americans. Most troubling for those concerned about racial justice was the participation of many priests in the opposition. This lack of consensus among those who wielded a powerful influence over parish and neighborhood life demanded a more definitive position from the Catholic hierarchy. Through most of the 20th century, that demand would come from Rome rather than from within their own ranks. However halting, Catholic “interracial” councils would emerge to address the issue.

Catholic Interracialism

Most Catholic leadership remained inattentive to the oppression of African Americans through much of the first half of the 20th century. The racial violence accompanying wartime labor unrest in 1919, however, forced the first meeting of the American Catholic hierarchy (in what would become the National Catholic Welfare Conference) to specifically address what it would call “the Negro question.” The ensuing Pastoral Letter denounced “all attempts at stirring up racial hatred” as a severe detriment to “the progress of all our people, and especially of the Negro.”36 The statement’s limitations were obvious to Thomas Wyatt Turner, a Howard University biology professor who founded what would become the Federated Colored Catholics (FCC) in 1924. Turner pressed the hierarchy on a number of injustices facing African American Catholics, including the exclusion of blacks from the ranks of clergy, the rejection of black applicants from the Catholic University of America, and the larger neglect of educational resources for African American communities. The creation of a single apostolate for “non-white” African American and Native American communities, moreover, solidified Catholic acquiescence to American racial norms while ignoring the specific forms of discrimination and self-organization that these communities experienced. Turner concluded that the “methods and policies which heretofore kept us an isolated group have served also to keep us a backward group.”37

The struggle over the Federated Colored Catholics would define Catholic interracialism in the interwar years. While rejecting race as a valid category of social organization, Turner nonetheless argued that the historical experience of African Americans had created a shared identity that necessitated an organization that African American Catholic laypersons could call their own. Turner’s vision of “racial solidarity and racial improvement” among black Catholic laity certainly fit with the institutional precedent set by the church through its national parish system. It also followed a pattern of voluntary separation that characterized African American Catholic life in the urban North after the Civil War. But in the 1930s, his efforts ran headlong into the interracialist zeal of two Jesuits, John LaFarge and William Markoe. LaFarge had been an active member of the early FCC. His experience serving a predominately African American community in Maryland inspired him to create the Cardinal Gibbons Institute, a Catholic version of Booker T. Washington’s industrial institute at Tuskegee. Along with Markoe, he warned that the church must do more to welcome African Americans escaping southern discrimination. Yet their frustration with any racial separation within Catholic life eventually targeted Turner’s own organization, which Markoe attacked as a “Jim-Crow segregated organization which has no place in the Catholic Church.” In 1933, they ousted Turner, drawing the ire of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founder and sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois, who denounced the “tragic effort to smash Negro leadership in the Catholic Church.”38

Catholic interracialists viewed their movement as an antidote to the racially charged hyper-nationalism of the era. One of its key spokesmen, historian Carlton Hayes, argued that anti-black discrimination in the United States was “perhaps the acme of the racial intolerance of modern nationalism.”39 Interracialists demanded that Catholics, mired in their own ethnic “nations” across urban America, begin to emphasize their common Catholic identity. The Catholic doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ became the theological foundation for their assault on Catholic racialism in all forms of enforced and self-segregation. Based on the teachings of St. Paul, mystical body theology preached an essential unity of all humanity. As Christ’s mystical body on earth, Catholics enacted this message of social and spiritual unity in the world. Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporus Christi made clear connections between the doctrine and the struggle for racial justice. The sacrifice of Christ reconciled all human beings to God and called them “to unite in one body, however widely they may differ in nationality and race.”40

Through much of the interwar period, Catholic interracial activists remained under-funded and ineffectual in generating any consensus around interracial justice. Only the issue of anti-Semitism would awaken Catholic consciousness to the reality of racial oppression. The anti-Semitic messages of radio priest Charles Coughlin and his Christian Front frustrated interracialists and the Roosevelt administration, which warned Vatican officials about his influence. Pope Pius XI developed a powerful anti-racist voice by denouncing racist totalitarianism and urging Catholic universities to “forge the intellectual weapons” required for fighting race pseudoscience that enabled these regimes. In 1939, LaFarge coauthored a papal encyclical titled “On the Unity of the Human Race.” The statement drew powerful connections to the oppression of African Americans and the anti-Semitism fueling the National Socialist movement in Germany. Pius XI’s death, however, prevented the encyclical’s release. His successor, Pius XII, preferred a less combative tone.41

World War II mobilization, followed by programs such as the G.I. Bill and housing funding, loosened the tight ethnic Catholic enclaves and integrated them into mainstream American life. The movement of Catholics into the middle class created a new generation of lay activists who infused interracial activism with a new energy in the 1950s. Interracial councils sought to enact a consistent message of racial justice at the local level. In the Deep South, the Catholic Committee of the South established a Commission on Human Rights in New Orleans, which sponsored lectures, roundtables, and other educational campaigns while working with local NAACP and National Urban League branches to educate white laity on Catholic moral teachings on race. In 1956, Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel issued a statement declaring segregation “morally wrong and sinful” and a threat to the “dignity and solidarity of the human race.” Catholic Interracial Councils also emerged in major urban centers throughout the North that not only created educational programs but interacted with urban renewal programs targeting predominately working-class Catholic neighborhoods. In 1958, the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice (NCCIJ) formed to support and communicate across thirty-six Catholic Interracial Councils around the country. That year the U.S. Catholic Bishops introduced their first major statement on the issue, “Discrimination and the Christian Conscience.”42

Struggles nonetheless persisted. Even as many Catholics joined the suburban exodus, Catholics had remained committed like no other denomination to their urban presence in the form of new churches and schools. This massive infrastructure, having weathered the Depression years and re-emerged with a new vitality in the immediate postwar era, felt the pressure of new nonwhite and non-Catholic migrants.43 White resistance to civil rights in the North took on a distinctly Catholic flavor as those who clung to traditional parish-centered neighborhoods vehemently—and often violently—protested open housing laws. This, combined with the rise of violent suppression of voting rights and desegregation efforts in the Deep South, shattered the optimism that interracialists shared with their liberal colleagues in the postwar years.

Racial Justice and “White Ethnicity”

As with so much of white America, the emergence of the civil rights movement’s direct action phase caught Catholic interracial leadership off guard. Like postwar liberalism, Catholic interracialism promoted an optimistic faith in the ability of American institutions to correct injustices through judicial and legislative change. Both defined the “race problem” as a fundamentally moral problem facing white Americans. Liberal optimism arose from the writing of Gunnar Myrdal, whose The American Dilemma argued that whites, facing a moral dilemma arising from the tension between national ideals and racist practice, would ultimately adhere to the nation’s fundamental “creed” of human equality.44 Catholic belief in the culture-shaping power of the institutional church through the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ mirrored this optimism and even drew from Myrdal’s insight. Like their liberal counterparts, Catholic interracial leadership nonetheless struggled to reconcile their vision with the institution’s own deep history of normalizing and enabling the racial order of American society.

Countering this optimism and fueling the civil rights movement’s most visible leaders was a more pessimistic vision associated with the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr had often praised the Catholic Church and its unique position in directing human consciences through its authority structure and global historical vision. His writings on the persistence of sin and the dynamics of power in human society nonetheless challenged the belief that social and political institutions alone, reflecting the weaknesses as much as the goodwill of their architects, could destroy racial oppression. White backlash to civil rights protesters, combined with growing urban unrest in the face of rampant economic inequality, seemed to verify Niebuhr’s social vision. It also inspired a commitment to nonviolent direct action that countered white power structures through extralegal measures.

In the 1960s, the convergence of the Second Vatican Council with the civil rights movement’s direct action phase created a significant shift in Catholic engagement with racial injustice. Sit-ins and marches unnerved Catholic officials and intensified white backlash from southern Citizens’ Councils to northern white Catholic neighborhood associations. They also inspired a new self-understanding among Catholics committed to racial justice. Vatican II’s definition of the church as the “People of God” altered the interracialist doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ while demanding a more direct engagement of all Catholics, clergy and laity alike, with the specific social problems of the day. If Catholics had once exercised a more narrow view of sacrament and sacred presence, the activism of the civil rights movement inspired in many a new understanding of sacred presence in the work of social struggle. The presence of Catholic women religious and clergymen in Selma, Alabama, and solidarity marches throughout the North was only the most visible expression of growing networks determined to uproot the institutionalized racism within both Catholic and American life.45

By the time that the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus gathered in 1968 to declare the Catholic Church a “white racist institution,” the limitations of this solidarity seemed clear. Within the previous year, urban riots in Detroit, Newark, and elsewhere revealed to many the structural depths of racial discrimination. At the end of 1967’s “long, hot summer,” the Kerner Commission and Catholic agencies alike would acknowledge the economic consequences of racial segregation and oppression as American began “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Both the report and the Black Clergy Caucus forced the institution to come to terms with its own “complicity with and active support of [the] prevailing attitudes and institutions of America.”46 Addressing white Catholics, black liberation theologian James Cone scored the Catholic institution for its participation in the nation’s centuries-long original sin of “racism.” Catholicism had long racialized its religious practice. Such criticisms, however, ran headlong into a revival of white ethnic identity that sought to counter charges of white privilege among the European immigrant classes.

Catholic social teaching conceived the self and one’s rights in terms of membership within a larger network of family, church community, workers’ association, and larger institutional church. This understanding of fundamental group rights has long conflicted with an American liberal tradition that established the liberty of the autonomous individual as the goal of modern democratic society. If the civil rights movement and subsequent challenges to structural racism introduced what one scholar calls a “contagious idiom of group identity and group rights on the American scene,” Catholics had long understood this language in ways that could both challenge and enhance the power of race as a foundation of group consciousness.47 In the 1970s, the power of race to shape public discourse on social policy returned in the white revival of “ethnicity.” Catholic intellectuals such as Michael Novak, especially in his 1971 The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics, gave voice to what scholars call a “white ethnic revival” highlighting the marginalization of Euro-Catholic immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century. As Matthew Frye Jacobson argues, this revival had the effect of undercutting black protest by narrowing the list of white culprits to original Nordic American stock and limiting the historical understanding of white supremacism to its most egregious expressions in slavery and genocide. All forms of structural discrimination—including housing covenants, denial of access to educational and other institutional resources, and underrepresentation in positions of authority within American and Catholic institution—that European immigrant Catholic groups enjoyed and even enforced were eclipsed by a new self-conception of “ethnic” otherness. Within this identity politics, the psychological dimensions of social marginalization, supposedly shared with non-whites, overshadow the material benefits that accrued to white “ethnics” as a result of anti-black racism.

This “white ethnic revival” continues to undermine Catholic response to ongoing racial conflict in the United States. As theologian Bryan Massingale notes, the Catholic institution’s lack of any definitive statement or program of action on racial justice is particularly egregious given the “browning” of the church since the mid-20th century.48 The 1965 Immigration Act initiated a profound demographic shift within the Catholic Church and society at large. Asian, African, Latino/a, and Native American communities have dramatically reshaped the profile of a Catholic community that is now 46 percent nonwhite. The new “national parishes” that accommodate these groups reflect less the will of the institutional church as the reality of economic and racial segregation in modern America. In places like Chicago, Mexican American devotions throughout the streets of a formerly Czech Catholic neighborhood of Pilsen highlight both the vibrancy of Catholic life and the reality of the socioeconomic isolation of inner cities.49 The dearth of public services, including sanitation, quality schooling, and transportation constitute what one scholar calls an “architecture of domination” that plagues many minority neighborhoods that bear the brunt of deindustrialization and economic recession.

Modern challenges to institutional racism, including police violence, disproportionate prosecution and incarceration that compound the continued economic vulnerability of persons of color, have prompted both productive and profoundly reactive reflections on Catholics’ own history of political and economic discrimination. As Catholic communities grapple with these events, they will continue to “discover” race’s power to give meaning to ongoing contests for power in American society and determine what theological and institutional resources best generate a common solidarity across the boundaries of modern society.

Review of the Literature

In the early 20th century, a handful of Catholic sociologists examined Catholics’ historical treatment of African Americans and the questions of American racism more generally. Works by John T. Gillard, S.S.J., and John LaFarge, S.J., notably, surveyed the “race question” through the lens of Catholics’ ongoing missionary outreach, primarily to the post–Civil War South.50 More critical treatments did not emerge until the dramatic confrontations and reforms of the 1960s. William A. Osborne’s The Segregated Covenant: Race Relations and American Catholics (1967) and Lawrence Lucas’s autobiographical Black Priest/White Church: Catholics and Racism (1970) both highlighted institutional Catholicism’s role as a mechanism of racial oppression.

The rise of new social history in the 1970s and 1980s challenged the institutional focus of early church historians. Following broader trends in the historical profession, these histories of the American Catholic community shifted their gaze from bishops and priests who expanded the church’s footprint in American society to the daily social, political, and spiritual lives of people in the pews. This included the examination of particular ethnic and racial communities. Jay Dolan followed his social-historical analyses of immigrant Irish and German Catholics in the 19th century with a three-volume co-edited series on Hispanic Catholics.51 Cyprian Davis’s The History of Black Catholics in the United States (1990) offered the first comprehensive study of African American experiences with particular attention to the agency of black Catholic lay communities that founded and developed community in the face of institutional barriers.

The 1990s and early 2000s saw a flourishing of scholarship on 20th-century Catholic efforts to perpetrate and mitigate racial injustice, both within the institution and in American society as a whole. David Southern’s biography, John LaFarge and the Limits of Catholic Interracialism (1996) and John T. McGreevy’s Parish Boundaries (1996) brought fresh insight into the specifically Catholic nature of racial organization and discrimination in American life. McGreevy’s work, along with his later Catholicism and American Freedom (2003) challenged a number of emerging perspectives on the working-class creation of white cultural and political identity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Prominent “whiteness” studies such as David Roediger’s The Wages of Whiteness rightly privileged Irish working-class competition with African Americans and the material and psychological benefits of white skin in the formation of Irish working-class consciousness. For McGreevy, however, such approaches do not fully explain the broader Catholic opposition to abolition in the 19th century or the hostility to neighborhood transformation in the 20th.

More recent work investigates the intersections of gender, slavery, and race with Catholic institutions and moral imagination in colonial and 19th-century Catholic communities. These include Emily Clark’s Masterless Mistresses (2007), Michael T. Pasquier’s Fathers on the Frontier (2010), and Tracy Neale Leavelle’s The Catholic Calumet (2012).52 Work by Timothy Matovina on Our Lady of Guadalupe and the historical experience of Mexican American communities guides a newer generation of scholarship on Latinx Catholicism and the legacies of mestizaje in challenging dominant racial norms in American society.53

These efforts to examine distinctly “Catholic” processes of race formation are complemented by efforts to critique and develop sources of racial justice found within church teachings. For an important historical account of the 1960s and the influence of Vatican II on Catholic racial justice see Amy Koehlinger’s The New Nuns (2007). In addition to Massingale’s work (previously cited), theological perspectives on black Catholic history in the United States include Diana L. Hayes’s and Cyprian Davis’s Taking down our Harps (1998) and M. Shawn Copeland’s Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience (2009).54

Further Reading

Butler, Anne M. Across God’s Frontiers: Catholic Sisters in the American West, 1850–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.Find this resource:

    Clark, Emily, and Virginia Gould. “The Feminine Face of Afro-Catholicism in New Orleans, 1727–1852.” William and Mary Quarterly 59.2 (April 2002): 409–448.Find this resource:

      Davis, Cyprian. The History of Black Catholics in the United States. New York: Crossroad, 2000.Find this resource:

        Fields, Barbara. “Slavery, Race, and Ideology in the United States of America.” New Left Review 181 (May–June 1990): 95–118.Find this resource:

          Fields, Karen E., and Barbara J. Fields. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. New York: Verso, 2012.Find this resource:

            Goldschmidt, Henry, and Elizabeth McAlister, eds. Race Nation, and Religion in the Americas. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

              Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

                Koehlinger, Amy. The New Nuns: Racial Justice and Religious Reform in the 1960s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

                  Matovina, Timothy, and Gary Riebe-Estrella, eds. Horizons of the Sacred: Mexican Traditions in U.S. Catholicism. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

                    McGreevy, John T. Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                      McGreevy, John T. Catholicism and American Freedom: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003.Find this resource:

                        Morrow, Diane Batts. Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828–1860. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.Find this resource:

                          Pasquier, Michael. “‘Though Their Skin Remains Brown, I Hope Their Souls Will Soon Be White’: Slavery, French Missionaries, and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the American South, 1789–1865.” Church History 77.2 (June 2008): 337–370.Find this resource:

                            Prentiss, Craig R., ed. Religion and the Creation of Race and Ethnicity: An Introduction. New York: New York University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                              Southern, David W. John LaFarge and the Limits of Catholic Interracialism, 1911–1963. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                                Thornton, John K. The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684–1706. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.Find this resource:


                                  (1.) Robert E. Tracy, American Bishop at the Vatican Council (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965), 129–135.

                                  (2.) Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

                                  (3.) John T. McGreevy, Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth Century Urban North (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

                                  (4.) David J. O’Brien, American Catholics and Social Reform: The New Deal Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968).

                                  (5.) Andrew Greeley, The Catholic Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 137–157.

                                  (6.) Greeley, The Catholic Imagination, 1–2, 7–8.

                                  (7.) On the former, see especially Tracy Neale Leavelle, “Geographies of Encounter: Religion and Contested Spaces in Colonial North America,” American Quarterly 56, no. 4 (December 2004): 913–943; and Amy DeRogatis, Moral Geography: Maps, Missionaries, and the American Frontier (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010); on the relationship between space and the culture of Jim Crow, see Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940 (New York: Vintage, 1999); Stephen A. Berrey, The Jim Crow Routine: Everyday Performances of Race, Civil Rights, and Segregation in Mississippi (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); and Jennifer Ritterhouse, Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

                                  (8.) José Cuello, “Racialized Hierarchies of Power in Colonial Mexican Society: The Sistema de Castas as a Form of Social Control in Saltillo,” in Choice, Persuasion, and Coercion: Social Control on Spain’s North American Frontiers, eds. Jesus F. de la Teja and Ross Frank (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005), 201–226; and Douglas R. Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660–1720 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994), 9–26.

                                  (9.) Missionary quoted in James A. Sandos, Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 92.

                                  (10.) Daniel Murphree, “Race and Religion on the Periphery: Disappointment and Missionization in the Spanish Floridas, 1566–1763,” in Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas, eds. Henry Goldschmidt and Elizabeth McAlister (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 35–59.

                                  (11.) Tracy Neale Leavelle, “Geographies of Encounter: Religion and Contested Spaces in Colonial North America,” American Quarterly 56 (December 2004): 913–943.

                                  (12.) Emily Clark and Virginia Gould, “The Feminine Face of Afro-Catholicism in New Orleans, 1727–1852,” William and Mary Quarterly 59, no. 2 (April 2002): 409–448, especially 415–416, 419–421.

                                  (13.) Mark M. Smith, “Remembering Mary, Shaping Revolt: Reconsidering the Stono Rebellion,” Journal of Southern History 67, no. 3 (August 2001): 513–534; John K. Thornton, “African Dimensions of the Stono Rebellion,” American Historical Review 96 (October 1991): 1101–1113; and John K. Thornton, The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684–1706 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

                                  (14.) Roberto S. Goizueta, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Heart of Mexican Identity,” in Religion and the Creation of Race and Ethnicity: An Introduction, ed. Craig R. Prentiss (New York: New York University Press, 2003), 140–151; Kristy Nabhan-Warren, The Virgin of El Barrio: Marian Apparitions, Catholic Evangelizing, and Mexican-American Activism (New York: New York University Press, 2005); Virgil Elizondo, Guadalupe: Mother of the New Creation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997); and Roberto R. Treviño, The Church in the Barrio: Mexican American Ethno-Catholicism in Houston (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

                                  (15.) Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States (New York: Crossroad, 2000), 99–105. See also Diane Batts Morrow, Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828–1860 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

                                  (16.) Tracy Fessenden, “The Sisters of the Holy Family and the Veil of Race,” Religion and American Culture 10 (Summer 2000): 187–224.

                                  (17.) Joseph G. Tregle Jr., “Creoles and Americans,” in Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization, eds. Arnold R. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992), 131–185; on religion and Creole resistance to Anglo-Protestant and Euro-Catholic influence, see especially Caryn Cossé Bell, Revolution, Romanticism and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718–1868 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997); and Emily Suzanne Clark, A Luminous Brotherhood: Afro-Creole Spiritualism in Nineteenth Century New Orleans (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

                                  (18.) Robert W. Johannsen, To the Halls of the Montezumas: The Mexican War in the American Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 167–168.

                                  (19.) James Hennesey, S.J., American Catholics: A History of the Roman Catholic Community in the United Sates (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 144.

                                  (20.) Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (New York: Routledge, 1995), 13.

                                  (21.) Hughes, quoted in John T. McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom: A History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003), 53.

                                  (22.) Bishop Auguste Marie Martin, 1861 letter quoted in Michael T. Pasquier, Fathers on the Frontier: French Missionaries and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the United States, 1789–1870 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 167.

                                  (23.) Francis Patrick Kenrick, “On Slavery,” 1841, reprinted in Creative Fidelity: American Catholic Intellectual Traditions, eds. R. Scott Appleby, Patricia Byrne, and William L. Portier (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004), 169.

                                  (24.) McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom, 43–67.

                                  (25.) Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White, 2–3; and David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York: Verso, 1991), 12–13, 117–118.

                                  (26.) Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, 41.

                                  (27.) Louis A. Martinet, “Archbishop Ireland’s Views on the Race Problem,” The Crusader, May 10, 1890, copy in Box 2, Folder 15, A.P. Tureaud Papers, Amistad Research Center (Tulane University).

                                  (28.) James B. Bennett, “Catholics, Creoles, and the Redefinition of Race in New Orleans,” in Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas, eds. Henry Goldschmidt and Elizabeth McAlister (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 183–184.

                                  (29.) Justin Poché, “Religion, Race, and Rights in Catholic Louisiana, 1938–1970” (PhD diss., University of Notre Dame, 2007).

                                  (30.) Anne M. Butler, Across God’s Frontiers: Catholic Sisters in the American West, 1850–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012), 192, 222–228, 256–258; and Amanda Bresie, “Mother Katharine Drexel’s Benevolent Empire: The Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions and the Education of Native Americans, 1885–1935,” U.S. Catholic Historian 32, no. 3 (2014): 1–24.

                                  (31.) John T. Gillard, S.S.J., The Catholic Church and the American Negro (Baltimore: St. Joseph’s Society Press, 1929), 248, 82.

                                  (32.) Stephen J. Ochs, Desegregating the Altar: The Josephites and the Struggle for Black Priests, 1871–1960 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), 246–257, 280–284.

                                  (33.) Short quote from Edward F. Murphy, “Rising Shadow,” Commonweal 9 (January 9, 1929): 286; and McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 9–10.

                                  (34.) John McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 6; and Gerald Gamm, Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).

                                  (35.) McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 82–83; see also Jaime R. Vidal, “The Rejection of the Ethnic Parish Model,” in Puerto Rican and Cuban Catholics in the U.S., 1900–1965, eds. Jay P. Dolan and Jaime R. Vidal (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), 70–87; and David A. Badillo, “The Catholic Church and the Making of Mexican-American Parish Communities in the Midwest,” in Mexican Americans and the Catholic Church, 1900–1965, eds. Jay P. Dolan and Gilberto Hinojosa (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), 254–265.

                                  (36.) Quoted in Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States, 217.

                                  (37.) Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States, 217–221.

                                  (38.) Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States, 221–225; and McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 44–45.

                                  (39.) Hayes quoted in McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 44.

                                  (40.) Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporus Christi (1943), paragraph 96.

                                  (41.) McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 51.

                                  (42.) McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 90–91.

                                  (43.) McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 72–76.

                                  (44.) See David L. Chappell, “Niebuhrisms and Myrdaleries: The Intellectual Roots of the Civil Rights Movement Reconsidered,” in The Role of Ideas in the Civil Rights Movement, ed. Ted Ownby (Oxford: University Press of Mississippi, 2002), 3–18.

                                  (45.) McGreevy, Parish Boundaries, 155–174. See also Amy Koehlinger, The New Nuns: Racial Justice and Religious Reform in the 1960s (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).

                                  (46.) Statement quoted in Bryan Massingale, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2010), 58.

                                  (47.) Matthew Frye Jacobson, Roots Too: White Ethnicity in Post–Civil Rights America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 19. See also Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, 274–280.

                                  (48.) Massingale, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, 45.

                                  (49.) Karen Mary Davalos, “‘The Real Way of Praying’: The Via Crucis, Mexicano Sacred Space, and the Architecture of Domination,” in Horizons of the Sacred: Mexican Traditions in U.S. Catholicism, eds. Timothy Matovina and Gary Riebe-Estrella, SVD (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), 41–68.

                                  (50.) John T. Gillard, S.S.J., The Catholic Church and the American Negro (Baltimore: St. Joseph’s Society Press, 1929); and John LaFarge, S.J., The Race Question and the Negro (New York: Longmans Green, 1943).

                                  (51.) Jay P. Dolan, The Immigrant Church: New York’s Irish and German Catholics, 1815–1865 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975); Dolan and Hinojosa, Mexican Americans and the Catholic Church; Dolan and Vidal, Puerto Rican and Cuban Catholics in the U.S; and Jay P. Dolan and Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J., eds., Hispanic Catholic Culture in the U.S.: Issues and Concerns (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994).

                                  (52.) Emily Clark, Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1727–1834 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); Michael T. Pasquier, Fathers on the Frontier: French Missionaries and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the United States, 1789–1870 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); and Tracy Neale Leavelle, The Catholic Calumet: Colonial Conversions in French and Indian North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).

                                  (53.) See especially Timothy Matovina, Guadalupe and Her Faithful: Latino Catholics in San Antonio from Colonial Origins to the Present (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2005); and Matovina and Riebe-Estrella, Horizons of the Sacred.

                                  (54.) Diana L. Hayes and Cyprian Davis, eds., Taking down Our Harps: Black Catholics in the United States (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1998); and M. Shawn Copeland, ed., Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2009).