A HISTORY OF African-American Catholics, prepared by three area educators and illustrated by an artist in Belleville, is being offered to schools across the nation.
"It took about three years to bring it about," said Ann Rule of Belleville, head of the Education Department at St. Louis University.
The published work includes a 100-page overview and seven workbooks: one for kindergarten through second grade, one for grades 3-5, one for grades 6-8, and one for each year of high school.
All are titled: "Valuing Our Differences - The History of African-American Catholics in the United States."
The publisher is Ernest T. Nedder, president of Brown-ROA in Dubuque, Iowa. "We deal with all the Catholic schools in the United States and all the parishes," Nedder said.
Brown-ROA sent an advertising brochure to each of the nation's nearly 8,000 Catholic schools and 19,000 parishes. Orders are arriving steadily, Nedder said.
Popularity is only one measure of success, he said. "We're hoping the books will make a contribution to the community's understanding of the role of African-Americans in the Church's development."
So far the books have drawn no serious criticism, Nedder said.
Although the subject is African-American history, all three authors - as well as the illustrator - are white.
Rule said she and her fellow authors benefited from consulting with blacks with vast backgrounds in history, religion and writing.
Instead of questioning the idea of whites producing a black history text, they offered enthusiastic encouragement, she said. "They were very, very supportive of the whole idea."
Rule's co-authors were the Rev. J.J. Mueller, who teaches theology at St. Louis University, and Sister Carol Stoecklin, an educator now serving in Detroit.
Mueller had spent time in South Africa. That experience seemed to strengthen his resolve to foster interracial understanding and harmony, Rule said.
A pilot study on the books was conducted in some St. Louis schools. "We got really good feedback from both students and teachers," she said.
The high school books are in their second printing.
Belleville artist and architect Gary Karasek did pen-and-ink drawings to accompany historical vignettes in books for elementary schools.
"I think that pen and ink was chosen because of its ability to print well," Karasek said.
The authors obtained copies of a few old, historic photos. Karasek used those as a guide. "Some were very poor photographs, but enough to pull a likeness," he said.
Among the illustrations are drawings of:
Sister Thea Bowman, a …