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Federated Colored Catholics


A militant national organization of black Catholics that sought to eliminate discriminatory practices against African Americans especially in Catholic institutions. The key figure in its foundation was Dr. Thomas W. Turner, a black Catholic educator associated with Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia. Early in 1917, he and a small group of black friends organized the Committee against the Extension of Race Prejudice in the Church. To achieve their objectives, these pioneers used written personal appeals to members of the hierarchy to correct discriminatory practices in Catholic churches, societies, schools, and seminaries. In 1919 the committee was enlarged to 25 members, and its name changed to the Committee for the Advancement of Colored Catholics. Since written appeals had borne little fruit, committees were formed to approach key Church leaders personally to plead the cause of black Catholics. The need for expanded membership soon became apparent, and in 1925 the national organization called the Federated Colored Catholics of the United States came into existence. Group membership, by Catholic parishes and parochial organizations, was emphasized in an effort to educate black Catholics regarding their rights and also to increase the effectiveness of the organization as a bargaining influence.

The objectives of the organization were most clearly stated in a resolution adopted at its annual convention in Detroit in 1930. Briefly, these included equal employment opportunities for all regardless of race; elimination of segregation in housing, recreation, and public utilities; Catholic education on all levels for black Catholic children; the breakdown of discriminatory policies in the admission of blacks to all Catholic institutions; admission of black boys and girls to convents and seminaries; the outlawing of discriminatory practices at Catholic church services and social functions; and a plea for the support of all Catholics in obtaining recognition of the dignity of black people as human beings, with constitutional rights to full citizenship.

Until 1930 the leadership in the federation was exclusively black. A membership of more than 100,000 was claimed. Interested whites, clerics, and laymen became increasingly involved, especially in participation at annual conventions. By 1932, when its convention was held in New York, the federation had become much more interracial in membership and leadership; and a new name, the National Catholic Federation for the Promotion of Better Race Relations, was adopted. One year later it was changed to the National Catholic Interracial Federation. By this time the older black leaders, with their emphasis on a direct, militant approach to the solution of racial problems, had lost influence, and new leadership was channeled into the Catholic Interracial Council movement, founded in New York in 1934.

Bibliography: h. m. smith, "Federated Colored Catholics of the U.S.: A Historical Sketch," The Chronicle 4 (1931) 543547. h. m. teabeau, "Federated Colored Catholics Make History in New York City Convention," Interracial Review 5 (1932) 195, 198200. t. j. harte, Catholic Organizations Promoting Negro-White Race Relations in the United States (Catholic University of America, Studies in Sociology; Washington 1947) 19.

[t. j. harte]

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