The Emergence of a Black Catholic Community
St. Augustine's in Washington
Since the early days of the Republic, Washington has nurtured an increasingly prosperous and articulate community of black Catholics. For much of that time the spiritual welfare of these citizens as well as their material aspirations centered on St. Augustine's parish. From the days of Civil War, through the decades when Jim Crow ruled Washington, to recent times and new challenges for the inner city, black Catholics from all over the area have worshipped regularly at St. Augustine's. Popularly called "The Mother Church of Black Catholics," it provides a beacon of hope for its parishioners, and its history offers a unique lens through which to view the emergence of an important Washington community.
Morris J. MacGregor traces the history of St. Augustine's from its beginning as a modest chapel and school to its recent years as one of the city's most imposing and active churches. For more than a century, the congregation has counted among its members many of the intellectual and social elite of black society as well as impoverished newcomers struggling with the perils of urban life. This socially diverse membership, enhanced by a constant stream of visitors of all races and classes drawn by the beauty of the church and the artistry of its musicians, has made St. Augustine's an exemplar of Christian brotherhood.
The book presents in considerable detail the history of race relations in church and state since the founding of the Federal City. Parish lay leaders have long been crusaders in the fight for racial justice; they have played important roles in the Congress of Colored Catholics, the Federation of Colored Catholics, the Catholic Interracial Council, and the NAACP. MacGregor discusses these groups as well as more recent urban institutions such as the vibrant 14th and U Streets Coalition. Because music has played an essential role at St. Augustine's, a sizable appendix is devoted to its history in the parish. The religious, racial, and social insights uncovered in this fascinating history make it a valuable resource for the study of American social and church history.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Morris J. MacGregor is the author of several books, including A Parish for the Federal City: St. Patrick's in Washington, 1794-1994 and Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1965.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:
"Morris MacGregor's history of St. Augustine's parish in the nation's capital is much more than a conventional history of a Catholic parish and its people. MacGregor's history, thoroughly researched and carefully documented, recounts the history of a black Catholic community from the eve of the Civil War to the present day. Placing this parish within the context of the history of Washington, D.C., and most particularly within the context of the African American community, the author masterfully demonstrates how this unique black parish, one of the oldest in the nation, played a pivotal role in the social and religious history of the District of Columbia."—Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., Saint Meinrad Archabbey
"This is how parish history should be written: with an eye to the big picture! In this substantial volume, Morris J. MacGregor, drawing on rich archival sources, newspapers, and oral interviews, gracefully recounts the story of St. Augustine's Parish, the mother church of black Catholics in the nation's capital and historically one of the most prominent black congregations in the city."—Catholic Historical Review
"Morris MacGregor has finally done it. He has produced the most comprehensive treatment of a Catholic parish that we have seen. St. Augustine's Church is not just another African American Catholic parish. It is the mother church of Black Catholics in Washington."—Catholic Standard
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