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Black, White, and Catholic

New Orleans Interracialism, 1947-1956

R. Bentley Anderson

Publication Year: 2005

Most histories of the Civil Rights Movement start with all the players in place--among them organized groups of African Americans, White Citizens' Councils, nervous politicians, and religious leaders struggling to find the right course. Anderson, however, takes up the historical moment right before that, when small groups of black and white Catholics in the city of New Orleans began efforts to desegregate the archdiocese, and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) began, in fits and starts, to integrate quietly the New Orleans Province. Anderson leads readers through the tumultuous years just after World War II when the Roman Catholic Church in the American South struggled to reconcile its commitment to social justice with the legal and social heritage of Jim Crow society. Though these early efforts at reform, by and large, failed, they did serve to galvanize Catholic supporters and opponents of the Civil Rights Movement and provided a model for more successful efforts at desegregation in the ’60s. As a Jesuit himself, Anderson has access to archives that remain off-limits to other scholars. His deep knowledge of the history of the Catholic Church also allows him to draw connections between this historical period and the present. In the resistance to desegregation, Anderson finds expression of a distinctly American form of Catholicism, in which lay people expect Church authorities to ratify their ideas and beliefs in an almost democratic fashion. The conflict he describes is as much between popular and hierarchical models of the Church as between segregation and integration.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I would like to acknowledge my professors, colleagues, and friends who read and commented on my work and encouraged me during the development of this project. A special note of thanks to my professors at Boston College: Andrew Bunie, Mark Gelfand, and James O’Toole; to my colleagues at Saint Louis University,...

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pp. xiii-xx

The activities of a small group of Catholic interracialists in the 1940s and 1950s had repercussions that went far beyond their immediate circle. By 1956, the archbishop of New Orleans, the Jesuit provincial of the New Orleans Province, and the Roman superior of the Society of Jesus, as well as the city of New Orleans and...

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pp. 1-10

TWENTIETH-CENTURY RACE RELATIONS in Catholic New Orleans can only be understood in terms of the mixing of the people and cultures of Europe, Africa, and America. First France, then Spain, and finally the United States and its citizens settled the lower Mississippi Valley, producing a people and...

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Chapter I. The Genesis of Southern Catholic Interracialism, 1917–1947

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pp. 11-25

IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICA, war, poverty, and idealism gave rise to Catholic interracialism—organized interaction and cooperation between black and white Catholics to promote racial harmony and advance racial justice. Catholic interracialists did not engage in mass protests or acts of civil disobedience...

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Chapter II. Interracial Agitation: Raising Awareness, 1948

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pp. 26-49

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF a collegians’ interracial commission in Catholic New Orleans occurred at a propitious time for dismantling racial segregation: democracy had triumphed over fascism in the Second World War, President Truman had established a committee on civil rights to report on race relations in...

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Chapter III. Interracial Activism: Belief in Practice, 1948–1949

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pp. 50-71

WHILE CATHOLIC INTEGRATIONISTS in New Orleans faced strong opposition on the local level inside and outside their church, they were heartened by the growing commitment of some political leaders to civil rights on the national level. President Harry S. Truman was not the Missouri senator Harry S. Truman...

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Chapter IV. Catholic Choice: Jim Crowism or Jesus Christ, 1949–1952

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pp. 72-97

IN ADDITION TO PRESIDENT TRUMAN’S and the Democratic Party’s call for civil rights reform in the post–World War II period, the major civil rights developments during Truman’s term in office occurred at the judicial level. The Supreme Court decisions-...

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Chapter V. "Norman Francis Is a Negro": Desegregating Catholic Colleges, 1952–1953

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pp. 98-110

IN JUNE 1952, NORMAN FRANCIS APPLIED to Loyola University’s School of Law. A senior at Xavier University, he was president of the student body, chairman of the collegians’ interracial commission, an honor graduate of his class, an exemplary Catholic, and brother of a priest. Writing to Patrick Donnelly, S.J.,...

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Chapter VI. Bearing Fruit: Catholic Interracialism in the Age of Brown, 1952–1956

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pp. 111-141

CATHOLIC INTERRACIAL ORGANIZATIONS continued their activities in New Orleans between Dwight Eisenhower’s two successful presidential campaigns in 1952 and 1956. This was a time of civil rights progress, with the Supreme Court rendering landmark decisions on race, the Montgomery bus boycott,...

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Chapter VII. The Rise of Southern Catholic Resistance, 1955–1956

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pp. 142-164

ARCHBISHOP JOSEPH FRANCIS RUMMEL’S CALL in 1953 to end segregation practices within the archdiocese of New Orleans coupled with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education et al. decision in 1954 altered religious practices in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Nonetheless,...

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Chapter VIII. The Death of Southern Catholic Interracialism, 1956

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pp. 165-189

BY 1956 PRO-INTEGRATION ORGANIZATIONS in the South were coming under attack, and were often accused of being subversives or under the influence of subversive elements. White Citizens’ Councils, state governments, and members of Congress, among others, attempted to thwart desegregation efforts....

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Chapter IX. Southern Catholics, Martin Luther King, Jr., and "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

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pp. 190-198

IN POST–WORLD WAR II NEW ORLEANS, the establishment of Catholic interracial organizations was a sign of hope and expectations: hope for a better day in American race relations and expectations that that day was at hand. For these southerners, interracialism was seen as a concrete manifestation of the...

Appendix A. Population of Catholic College Students in New Orleans, 1947–1956

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pp. 199-200

Appendix B. Manhattanville Resolutions

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p. 201-201

Appendix C. Resolution Passed by Members of the Southeastern Regional Interracial Commission

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p. 202-202

Appendix D. Resolution 5C 48-10

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p. 203-203

Appendix E. Resolution 5C 48-17

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p. 204-204

Appendix F. Concerning Inter-racial Relations at Loyola University

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pp. 205-207

Appendix G. Working Draft and Final Resolution Passed at First Regional Congress of the NFCCS

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pp. 208-209

Appendix H. Resolution Introduced by the Delegates from the New York-New Jersey Region at the Tenth National Congress of the NFCCS

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p. 210-210

Appendix I. Resolution to be Presented to the Dads' Club of the Holy Name of Jesus School

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pp. 211-212


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pp. 213-262


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pp. 263-282


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pp. 283-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591937
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826514837
Print-ISBN-10: 0826514839

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • New Orleans (La.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Catholics -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- Attitudes -- History -- 20th century.
  • Catholics -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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