In Ages Past
Daniel A. Rudd: Black Catholic Journalist and Pioneer
Yet few Church leaders denounced the growing racist climate in 1890's America, a period one historian has called "the nadir of African American history." Lynchings increased yearly, and southern states added new segregation laws, which the Supreme Court upheld. Bishops, especially those in the South, backed away from ordaining African-American priests. The congresses (for various reasons, including institutional opposition) ceased to meet.
By the 1890's, Rudd was known as the "leading Catholic representative of the Negro race." In 1897, however, his newspaper folded. He moved back to the South, where he directed his energies toward business enterprises and civil rights. He couldn't have helped but be disappointed by the reaction of his own Church's leaders. But he did remain active in the Church, and joined the NAACP. After suffering a stroke in 1932, he returned to his native Bardstown, where he died a year later.
Dan Rudd's work wasn't in vain. More than anyone else in his time, he helped develop a Black Catholic consciousness that attracted national, even international, attention. By no means did Black Catholic activism die with him. Groups such as the Federated Colored Catholics and the Catholic Interracial Council pushed for racial justice both inside and outside the Church. And during the pre-Civil Rights era, the Vatican pushed American bishops to take a stronger stand for racial justice.
For all Catholics, white and black alike, Rudd remains an inspiration. His life, Gary Agee notes, was "remarkable and inspirational . . . a compelling challenge to those who believed in the inferiority of the race." And it encourages us to reflect on the true meaning of the word Catholic: "universal."
Dr. Pat McNamara is a published historian. He blogs about American Catholic History at McNamara's Blog.