Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Abstract

A central paradox marks the story of the Roman Catholic mission in the American South. On one hand, the Church committed itself to providing access to quality education in underserved southern black communities. The establishment of southern Catholic schools for African American children supported the nation's traditional emphasis on education as a prerequisite for economic, social, and political advancement. Insofar as Catholic schools and sisters in the Jim Crow South offered opportunity in communities that otherwise lacked access to education, they demonstrated some of the best qualities traditionally associated with the United States of America.

On the other hand, Catholic institutions in the South maintained the color line through the mid-twentieth century. Schoolchildren attended segregated schools. Black women who sought admission to traditionally white sisterhoods were routinely denied entrance. Here, the paradox emerges in full force: within these Catholic institutions, in a religion whose very name claims the mantle of human universality and inclusivity, racial segregation and discrimination structured its schools and defined its sisterhoods. The history of Catholic schools in the American South evinces this contradiction. "Reaping the `Colored Harvest' " focuses on the origins and growth of the Church's southern mission. From the highest reaches of the Catholic hierarchy to the humblest mission schools, a variety of perspectives and individual voices reflect the complicated nature of this story.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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