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

By Wintory, Blake | The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

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


Wintory, Blake, The Arkansas Historical Quarterly


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, 236. Acknowledgments, illustrations, notes, selected bibliography, index. $39.95.)

Daniel A. Rudd, born into slavery in Kentucky, championed equality and justice for African Americans as the publisher of the American Catholic Tribune (1886-1897) and as the "chief architect" of the Negro Catholic Congress (1889-1894). Rudd's later career took him to Mississippi and Arkansas, where he worked in the delta's booming lumber industry. Living in Arkansas between 1912 and 1932, he found employment with Scott Bond in Madison (St. Francis County) and later with John Gammon, Sr., in Marion (Crittenden County). While working for Bond, Rudd co-authored Bond's biography, From Slavery to Wealth: The Life of Scott Bond (1917).

The heart of this book is Agee's exposition of Rudd's American Catholic Tribune. Agee combs the 285 extant copies (1887-1894) of the paper to lay out Rudd's Catholic "vision of justice" and the Church's "vital role in the establishment of a racially equitable society in America" (p. ix). Agee argues that Rudd's approach to justice and equality for African Americans evolved over time from directly advocating integration, to his Catholic-centered work with the American Catholic Tribune, and, finally, during his southern years, to the economic self-help model of Booker T. Washington. But Rudd's later membership in the NAACP in 1919 "makes it plausible," Agee notes, that "he joined the ranks of other blacks in moving toward a more direct approach" (p. 18).

The details of Daniel Rudd's early life are not completely clear, but we know considerably more about his life and family than about many former slaves. In 1854, Daniel Arthur Rudd was born a slave in Bardstown, Kentucky, and baptized at the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral that same year. His parents, Robert Rudd and Eliza Smith Rudd, had been married in 1831 with the permission of their Catholic owners and were allowed to work as sextons at St. Joseph's. Daniel, the eleventh of twelve children, was likely educated in the church and later in Springfield, Ohio. After the Civil War, he followed his siblings to Springfield, where he worked as a printer, reporter, and editor at the Sunday News and founded the short-lived Review in 1884. In 1885, he founded the Ohio State Tribune. The following year, with a partner, he renamed it the American Catholic Tribune, moving the paper to Cincinnati.

Chapters two and three outline Rudd's relationship to the Catholic Church, his vision of the Church's role in support of full equality for African Americans, and internal criticisms of Rudd's positions. Full equality, Rudd believed, was a Catholic principle. Archbishop John Ireland argued in 1890 that the color line was imagined because "the same human blood course through veins" of the white man and black man (p. 64). Other clergy pushed back against Ireland's radical theology, but Rudd praised the archbishop's sermon as the "gospel of humanity" and "the gospel of equality before the altar" (p. 72). Rudd still had to wrestle with contradictions within the Church-overt racism and persistently segregated congregations in places like New Orleans. …

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