“"Catholic schools were the Catholic Church's unparalleled route into southern black communities. ”
This book traces the history of the rise and decline of Black Catholic Schools in the South. It tells the story of the U.S. Catholic Church’s initial efforts to develop Catholic education for black southerners after the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (1866) charged the nation’s Catholic bishops to minister to the freed people, and then relates the abandonment of those efforts almost 100 years later during the era of school integration. The book examines the ideology and content of black Catholic schools within the context of the larger political subordination of blacks, which would ultimately overshadow the Church’s teachings, doctrines, and declarations on providing Catholic education for blacks. The book argues that in order to understand southern blacks’ experiences with and within the U.S. Catholic Church during the late 19th and 20th centuries, one must understand the development and dismantling of segregated black Catholic schools and black efforts to preserve those institutions during the era of integration. The book considers black Catholic schools dating back to the mid 1800s throughout the South including some in central and southern Louisiana; Charleston; Little Rock; Raleigh; Houston; and Guthrie, Oklahoma. It reveals a historically knotty and thorny relationship between black Catholics and the Catholic Church that spans from Emancipation through racial integration, and positions those interactions within Catholic teachings, the long civil rights movement, and the larger black freedom struggle. It shows the history of segregated black Catholic school communities is intricately connected to the story of the U.S. Church and to the larger African American experience. This book demonstrates that black Catholics moved seamlessly between Catholic declarations, doctrines, teachings, and civil rights legislation as they challenged the Church’s decision to close their schools.