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.

 

Redpath’s Illustrated Weekly: a rare find

In late 1879, James Redpath looking for a project that would both interest him and provide a living. For 25 years Redpath had a varied career as an abolitionist, reporter, publisher, lobbyist, superintendent of schools in the reconstruction south, social activist and entertainment mogul. Redpath had sold his Lyceum booking agency several years earlier and was recuperating from an accident. He proposed to The New York Tribune that they send him to Ireland where he could regain his health while reporting on social conditions in that country.

Though born in Scotland, Redpath became interested in uncovering the causes of the famine that had swept Ireland in the late 1870’s. The Tribune agreed to his proposal and during 1880 and 1881, Redpath made three trips to Ireland, sponsored in part by The Tribune and The Boston Pilot, to ascertain the causes of the famine. While in Ireland, he became a supporter of Charles Stewart Parnell and the Irish Land League, and a staunch opponent of the landlord system that kept the Irish people in poverty.

During these years, Redpath wrote numerous articles and delivered lectures throughout the United States supporting the cause of Irish land reform and, eventually, Irish freedom.

Reacting to the pro-English stance of most American newspapers concerning Ireland, in July 1882 Redpath bought the New York based newspaper McGee’s Illustrated Weekly from its publisher, Maurice Francis Egan and determined to make it a vehicle to support land reform in Ireland and promote Irish independence.

July 15, 1882 issue of McGee's Illustrated Weekly noting the sale of the paper to Redpath.

The first issue of the newly named Redpath’s McGee’s Illustrated Weekly appeared July 22, 1882.

Redpath’s editorial comments in the first issue clearly declared the pro-Irish temper of the paper:

“I shall try to make this journal an interpreter between American and Irish friends of liberty. As soon as Americans know the true story of Ireland they will support her in every wise effort to overthrow the despotic rule of England.”

By the third issue, published on August 5, 1882, Redpath had deemed the title too confusing and shortened it to Redpath’s Illustrated Weekly. Though founded as an activist newspaper devoted to the cause of reform in Ireland, the paper also covered Irish culture in general with sections such as “Pictures of Irish Life” and illustrations of prominent Irishmen, Irish-Americans and “friends of Ireland.”

Redpath’s opposition to English rule in Ireland and the large Anglo-Irish landlords he saw as responsible for Ireland’s misfortune branched into other articles in his newspaper such as anti-landlordism in New York City and opposition to English imperialism in Egypt. The paper also supported other social causes such as women’s suffrage, civil service reform and the labor movement.

Depictions of tenement housing in New York City

 

Illustration showing British imperialism in Egypt

Redpath also realized that a newspaper devoted primarily to Ireland and social reform may have  limited appeal, so he tried to broaden its readership by including humorous pieces, domestic and foreign news blurbs, sheet music, poems and serialized novels. At times the paper also included a Boys and Girls Department and a Ladies Department.

Section devoted to women's fashion

Changing financial circumstances and lack of interest in Ireland and social issues caused gradual changes in the newspaper’s format and content. With the February 24, 1883 issue, the name of the newspaper was shortened further to Redpath’s Weekly. This reflected the reduction in the number of illustrations due to rising publication costs.

By August 1883, the paper had become more literary and less a vehicle for Irish freedom and social activism with more space devoted to serialized fiction, including French and Russian works translated by associate editor, Jeremiah C. Curtin. Included were perhaps the earliest serializations of stories by Jules Verne. These changes, however, were not enough to save the paper and the last issue of Redpath’s Weekly was published on August 23, 1884.

This 1883 issue included Part II of Verne's "The American Robinson Crusoe"

 

PAHRC has the most complete run of Redpath’s Illustrated Weekly.

The paper has also been digitized as part the Digital Library @ Villanova University. To view the digitized issues click here.

 

References:

McKivigan, John. Forgotten Firebrand: James Redpath and the Making of Nineteenth Century America. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London. 2008.