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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

1071: How a universal church adapted to and resisted powerful calls for transformation

Day 1071: Monday, February 20, 2023

How a universal church adapted to and resisted powerful calls for transformation

This is an announcement from FutureChurch about a discussion by Dr. Mark Newman about race and the Catholic Church: Desegregating Dixie: The Catholic Church in the South and Desegregation, 1945-1992

In honor of Black History Month, join Professor Mark Newman of the University of Edinburgh as he discusses race and the Catholic Church from his book, “Desegregating Dixie: The Catholic Church in the South and Desegregation, 1945-1992.”

Thursday, February 23, 2023 at 9:00am Pacific Time

Winner of the 2020 American Studies Network Book Prize from the European Association for American Studies, Mark Newman draws on a vast range of archives and many interviews to uncover for the first time the complex response of African American and white Catholics across the South to desegregation. In the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, the southern Catholic Church contributed to segregation by confining African Americans to the back of white churches and to black-only schools and churches.

However, in the twentieth century, papal adoption and dissemination of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, pressure from some black and white Catholics, and secular change brought by the civil rights movement increasingly led the Church to address racial discrimination both inside and outside its walls.

Far from monolithic, white Catholics in the South split between a moderate segregationist majority and minorities of hard-line segregationists and progressive racial egalitarians. While some bishops felt no discomfort with segregation, prelates appointed from the late 1940s onward tended to be more supportive of religious and secular change.

Some bishops in the peripheral South began desegregation before or in anticipation of secular change while elsewhere, especially in the Deep South, they often tied changes in the Catholic churches to secular desegregation.

This is the first comprehensive treatment of the Catholic Church in the American South during the twentieth century's long civil rights movement.? Based on archival research in Catholic dioceses and archdioceses from Virginia to Texas, it incorporates voices of white and black Catholics alike. Rather than place "southern" and "Catholic" in opposition, as so many other scholars have done, Newman does a remarkable job capturing Catholics? sometimes complicated relationship with the rest of the South.

Newman's nuanced argument reveals that desegregation's impact was not overwhelmingly positive, since parish integration often meant the loss of institutions that had nurtured black community identity throughout the Jim Crow era. In short, this is a solid piece of scholarship, thorough in its research, judicious and fair in its judgments and conclusions, clear in presentation, opening new areas of inquiry that scholars will wrestle with for a long time to come. -- Andrew S. Moore, professor of history, Saint Anselm College, and author of The South’s Tolerable Alien: Roman Catholics in Alabama and Georgia, 1945–1970

African American Catholics were diverse and more active in the civil rights movement than has often been assumed. While some black Catholics challenged racism in the Church, many were conflicted about the manner of Catholic desegregation generally imposed by closing valued black institutions. Tracing its impact through the early 1990s, Newman reveals how desegregation shook congregations but seldom brought about genuine integration.

Two particular strengths of the book are the chapter that compares the southern Catholic experience with that of southern Protestants, and the chapter that takes the narrative into the early 1990s. Both provide the monograph with a better perspective and include the same depth of research that makes Newman's scholarship so impressive.

Newman's comprehensive work discusses many people, places, and events, and offers crucial context for anyone studying desegregation in the South. Overall, Desegregating Dixie is an essential resource for those concerned with race and religion in the South, Catholicism in the United States, and the civil rights movement. -- Karen J. Johnson, Wheaton College ― The Journal of Mississippi History

Mark Newman has written the definitive study of how the Roman Catholic Church variously resisted, assisted, and adapted to racial integration. This deeply researched and well-written book adds enormously to our understanding of the dynamics of racial change in the twentieth-century South. Newman has unearthed a complex, fascinating story, and he tells it exceedingly well. -- Adam Fairclough, professor emeritus, Leiden University, and author of

A Class of Their Own: Black Teachers in the Segregated South

Announcement from Alice:

Please let me know if you'd like to attend the performance at the 6th Street Playhouse. If we sign up 10 people we get a reduced price.

Our date is March 17th - St. Patrick's Day. The perfdormance starts at 7:30pm

Should be fun!

Please call Alice at (707) 217-0514 for more information. She needs a count and the money by March 1st.

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