- A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism, and Activism 1854–1933 by Gary B. Agee
Of the various aspects of American Catholic history, the one field that is in need of a more careful examination is that of Black Catholicism, be it the study of a congregation, the biography of a religious, or the life of a member of the laity. In A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism, and Activism, 1854–1933, Gary Agee, adjunct professor of church history at Anderson School of Theology, furthers our knowledge of black Catholicism though the examination of the life of Daniel Rudd, editor of the American Catholic Tribune (ACT) and founding member of the Colored Catholic Congress Movement. In doing so, Agee, provides insight into the black Catholic civil rights movement and the strivings of Black Catholics to bring about racial justice in the United States.
Agee divides his work in several parts, examining Rudd’s life as a newspaper editor, the church’s stance on race matters, the establishment of the Colored Catholic Congress Movement, and non-Catholic racial issues. While not a full-blown biography of Rudd, Agee attempts to situate his subject in the racial milieu of his day. The [End Page 71] strongest element of this work is his analysis of Rudd’s use of the ACT to promote racial justice based on Catholic theological teachings.
In the mid-1880s, Rudd, age thirty, launched the American Catholic Tribune (ACT) out of Cincinnati, Ohio; within a decade the publication had some 10,000 subscribers. Initially Rudd founded the newspaper “to achieve the modest goal of giving the Catholic Church a ‘fair hiring’ among blacks” (35); over time, however, he changed the emphasis of the paper, focusing on the question of racial justice for black Americans. For Rudd, the church was the avenue by which blacks could obtain full equality in the United States, arguing that “. . . the Holy Catholic Church whose foundation is the Savior and whose plea and law is the ‘Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man.’ She will not be disturbed in her work of equalization until it is consummated” (36). This theological presupposition would inform not only Rudd but most, if not all, Catholic civil rights activities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Agee’s work is recommended for its presentation of material concerning the ACT. The shortcomings of the work are not necessarily the fault of the author. Rudd did not leave a memoir, diary, or personal papers to help flesh out his life beyond what is found in his newspaper. Agee has filled in the gaps as best he could, examining other writings, movements, and developments of the times. Nevertheless, this work expands our understanding of the role black Catholics played in the American civil rights movement and the promotion of racial justice in our country.