Church History

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Book Reviews and Notes

In A Cry for Justice , Gary Agee recovers the story of Daniel Rudd (1854-1933), one of the best-known black Catholics of the post-Civil War era. In 1886, Rudd started the American Catholic Tribune (ACT ). At its peak in 1892 while operating from Cincinnati, the ACT claimed ten thousand subscribers. Agee's account of Rudd's life relies heavily on the 285 remaining copies of the ACT . On the pages of this weekly newspaper, the author argues, "Rudd promoted a church-centered vision of justice that presumed for the Catholic Church a vital role in the establishment of a racially equitable society in America" (ix).

The book begins with a brief look at Rudd's upbringing, a story that scarcely predicts his future successes, but does foreshadow his committed Catholicism. Rudd hailed from Bardstown, Kentucky, born into slavery as the eleventh of twelve children. The house where he lived was a few short steps from the Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral, the place where Rudd was baptized and received first communion. At the conclusion of the Civil War, Rudd relocated to Springfield, Ohio, where he completed an education and began his career in journalism. Agee notes that among the challenges in reconstructing this phase of Rudd's life was the editor's reluctance to write about it in the ACT . Agee speculates, "perhaps he feared that drawing attention to the fact that he had been the property of a Catholic family would put off the African American audience he was trying to evangelize" (7).

Indeed, Rudd placed Catholicism at the center of his journalistic endeavors. The editor frequently made mention of the "Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man," as a way of stressing a Catholic doctrine of interdependence that he believed made the church uniquely qualified to address the concerns of African Americans. Rudd had influential allies inside the church, to include John Ireland, archbishop of Saint Paul's in Minnesota. In 1890, just as Louisiana passed legislation that segregated railcars, Ireland proposed that the solution to the "race problem" was "to obliterate the color line" (63).

The archbishop became Rudd's North Star, his shining point of reference for highlighting a progressive racial attitude among Catholics. Alas, Ireland met resistance both from non-Catholics and Catholics alike. Southern newspapers in particular lambasted the archbishop, claiming that racial integration violated the laws of God and nature. Similarly, John M. Mackey, pastor of the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Chains in Cincinnati, announced his opposition to Ireland, claiming that the color line was "drawn apparently by nature herself" (70). The priest's rebuttal was curious not only because his cathedral had more black members than any other in Cincinnati, but also because he was the associate editor of the ACT.

We are mostly left to wonder if Mackey's disagreement with Ireland strained his relationship with Rudd. Mackey left the paper in January 1891. …