A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism, and Activism, 1854-1933

By Lackner, Joseph | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2012 | Go to article overview

A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism, and Activism, 1854-1933


Lackner, Joseph, The Catholic Historical Review


A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism, and Activism, 1854-1933- By Gary B. Agee. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. 2011. Pp. xv, 237. $39.95. ISBN 978-1-55728975-9.)

This biography of Daniel A. Rudd, an Afro-American Catholic who rose from slavery to become an important figure in nineteenth-century Catholicism, is based on a doctoral dissertation that Gary B. Agee completed for the University of Dayton, and it reads as such. As the author acknowledges, it builds on earlier scholarship of Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., and others.

Agee calls attention to material in the American Catholic Tribune, the journal edited and published by Rudd, that has not been discussed in print. Among this material are comments on employment opportunities for blacks and the emergence of the "New Woman." In addition, he fills in some details about Rudd's life from the demise of the newspaper to his work on the biography of Scott Bond, a wealthy black Arkansas farmer and merchant. The picture of Rudd is enriched as we see him described as an inventor, businessman, lumber mill manager, accountant, and teacher, as well as a writer, political activist, and publisher. Finally, Agee records Rudd's participation as a speaker in a Cleveland meeting of the NAACP in 1919 and notes his good relationship with Bishop John B. Morris of Little Rock. On the other hand, he does not indicate that some who were initially close to Rudd found him contentious.

The words conceivable, plausible, and perhaps occur throughout the text. Sometimes the conjectures seem fair, but they are educated guesses. Others seem less than plausible. For example, on the basis of the fact that Elizabeth Rudd and her children were listed as mulatto, he suggests that she or her mother may have been victims of sexual violence (p. 8). There is no indication in anything that Rudd ever wrote that such may be the case. In commenting on the marriage of Elizabeth and Robert Rudd, he mentions that legally the master could dissolve a marriage, but he does not qualify the statement by noting that a sacramental marriage could not be dissolved in the eyes of the Church. Throughout the work there are issues like this one that need more nuance.At the same time, it seems that material extraneous to the main topic is sometimes introduced. For example, Agee devotes a chapter to Archbishop John Ireland. Clearly, Ireland was a great champion of African Americans, and Rudd admired and quoted his words. But a chapter is not necessary to make the point.

In some things Agee is simply wrong. For example, he writes "... Rudd appears to have been the initiator of the interracial lay Catholic congress movement" (pp. xiiii-xiv). As a matter of fact, Henry E Brownson made the suggestion for the Lay Catholic Congress, and Cardinal James Gibbons eventually accepted. Rudd was invited to be a member of the Committee on Organization by William Onaham, its chair. …

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