Black Catholic periodicals

Thanks to our volunteer Andy Staszkiw for his help with this post.

PAHRC’s significant collection of periodicals includes newspapers and journals related to black Catholics. Among these are the earliest newspapers published by and for the black Catholic community. These newspapers also covered issues relating to the African American community in a broader sense.

According to Cyprian Davis, author of The History of Black Catholics in the United States, the black Catholic laity emerged as a cohesive and influential force during the last couple decades of the 19th century. In November 1889, a number of prominent men (the actual number is not known) gathered in Baltimore for the first black Catholic lay congress in the country’s history.

The emergence of this community was largely due to the efforts of Daniel Rudd, the “leading Catholic representative of the Negro Race.” It also appears to have been due to the significant increase in missionary work among African Americans around this time as evidenced by the considerable number of journals devoted to black Catholic missions that began to be published towards the end of the 19th century.

It was in 1886 that Daniel Rudd started the weekly black newspaper American Catholic Tribune, initially titled Ohio State Tribune in Springfield, Ohio. The newspaper was then published in Cincinnati before moving to Detroit where it continued to operate until 1899. Rudd noted the paper would “give the great Catholic Church a hearing and show that it is worthy of at least a fair consideration at the hands of our race, being as it is the only place on this Continent where rich and poor, white and black, must drop prejudice at the threshold and go hand in hand to the altar.”[1]

American Catholic Tribune, February 25, 1887

PAHRC has a fairly significant, though incomplete, run of the American Catholic Tribune from 1887 to 1894. According to WorldCat, only several libraries worldwide have this newspaper.

The Research Center also has several issues of The Journal, a weekly Philadelphia newspaper published in 1892 by Swann and Hart. Though it lasted less than a year, The Journal spoke to Philadelphia’s growing number of Black Catholics. It appears that PAHRC is the only institution that has this publication.

PAHRC also has a single issue of The Catholic Herald (February 18, 1905) which was published in Washington D.C. I have not been able to find any information about this publication. The paper was given official approbation by James Cardinal Gibbons and describes itself as “The only colored Catholic paper authorized by the Church.” Its masthead also read: “The Catholic Church is the only hope of the Negro.”

PAHRC’s collection of periodicals also includes several journals relating to black Catholic missions. Published by religious orders that devoted their missionary work to blacks, such as the Josephite Fathers, these journals not only offer insight into these orders and their activities, but also document the African American communities with which the orders interacted.

PAHRC has a significant, though incomplete, run of The Josephite Harvest, previously The Colored Harvest, from the first year of its publication in 1888 to 1956. Based in Baltimore and educated at St. Joseph’s Seminary, the Josephites established black missions throughout the country and abroad.

The Colored Harvest (October 1893)

A photograph of St. Francis school and church in Natchez, Missouri (October 1893 issue)

Photographs depicting May processions and high school graduates from several parish schools and academies in Baltimore and the surrounding area (July-August 1923 issue)

Other journals in PAHRC’s collection include The Flight, published by the Institute of Mission Helpers in Baltimore, and Mission fields at home followed by Mission published by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia. Founded by Saint Katharine Drexel, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament devoted themselves to mission work among blacks and Native Americans.

[1] Cyprian Davis. The History of Black Catholics in the United States. New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1990.


James Buchanan materials at the Archdiocesan Archives?

Some of the materials that the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center has in its collection has very little, or perhaps nothing, to do with diocesan history, or more broadly, the history of Catholicism in the U.S.

PAHRC’s collection not only includes the archives of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, but also the collections of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, the oldest Catholic historical society in the country. In it’s 1885 charter, the ACHS stated that it’s purpose “shall be the preservation and publication of Catholic American historical documents, the investigation of American Catholic history, especially that of Philadelphia, and the development of interest in Catholic historical research.” It appears, however, that like many historical societies, the ACHS  sometimes accepted materials that did not relate to it’s mission statement, or fall within a collection scope- if one had even been articulated- especially if one of its members owned or had access to historic materials.

An interesting small collection that seems to fall within this category is the David Lynch Papers, 1830-1865 (MC 13), possibly collected by the ACHS due to the mere fact that Lynch may have been Catholic. A tobacconist from Pittsburgh, PA, David Lynch (1793-1860) had served as a major in the land and marine services in the War of 1812. Appearing to have been politically well-connected, the governor of Pennsylvania appointed Lynch as an auctioneer for the city of Pittsburgh around 1830. Lynch was also appointed as Pittsburgh’s Postmaster in 1833.

Certificate of Lynch's appointment as an auctioneer for the City of Pittsburgh, February 9, 1830(?)

A staunch Democrat who was actively involved in politics, David Lynch happened to be  friends with fellow Pennsylvanian James Buchanan. The collection includes a few letters between the two men that were written during Buchanan’s terms as a Congressman and President.

In the following letter, dated December 23, 1850, sent from his Wheatland estate in Lancaster, PA, Buchanan provides Lynch with a lengthy response regarding the likelihood of Buchanan becoming President. The letter provides a good deal of insight into Buchanan’s personality and political philosophies as well as the current state of politics in both Pennsylvania and the country. Part of the first page of the letter reads:

You know I am not a sanguine man, nor is my heart so fixed upon that high honor that defeat will cost me ‘a night’s sleep or a meal’s victuals.’ I firmly believe that the time has at length arrived when the Democracy of Pennsylvania may furnish a President to the union should they think proper…I have every reason to believe that all the Southern States are decidedly friendly to my nomination. Indeed some of their leading men say, they will support no other Northern man.

Page 1

Part of the second page reads:

There is an element now actively at work which may defeat all calculations and many leading men of both parties are engaged in it. Even the Washington Union appears to lean that way. This is to sink the names of Democrat and Whig and to form a new Union party.

Page 2

Buchanan shares his views on the separation of church and state on the third page:

If there is anything in world which I do despise it is attempts to bring religion into politics and to  make a man’s creed operate against him, I don’t care to what sect he may belong.

Page 3

Page 4

The collection also includes estate papers relating to James Buchanan’s Pennsylvania properties, presumably because Lynch as an auctioneer was somehow involved with the transfer of land.

A small collection that seemingly has little or nothing to do with Catholicism in America, the David Lynch Papers, nevertheless has historic value. Materials in the collection offer a glimpse into state and national politics during the antebellum period, including information relating to a significant national figure.

A full finding aid for the collection will be available shortly.