Federated Colored Catholics

The Federated Colored Catholics (FCC) was a national religious organization, founded in 1925, composed of Catholic African-Americans.

History

Precursors

The initial impetus for the establishment of the body which became the Federated Colored Catholics was the entry of the United States' into World War I. Shortly after the mobilization of American troops, the YMCA organized stations on military bases, offering a variety of services for white and black Protestant soldiers. The Knights of Columbus followed suit, opening a number of clubhouses for white Catholic soldiers. The needs of African-American Catholic troops, however, remained unmet. Thomas Wyatt Turner, a biologist who had earned his doctorate in the field at Cornell University (1921), then went on to become the head of the Biological Studies Department at Hampton Institute, quickly organized a committee of African-American parishioners of St. Augustine Church in Washington, D.C. and petitioned Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore to address the problem.

At the end of the war, the Committee Against the Extension of Race Prejudice in the Church, as the group called themselves, changed its name to the Committee for the Advancement of Colored Catholics and petitioned the American bishops to address the growing racial violence spreading across the United States. Receiving a lukewarm reception from the Catholic hierarchy, Turner began communicating with the Apostolic Delegation on a number of issues, including the absence of African-American clergy, discriminatory practices of the Josephites and Catholic Universities, and the need for greater African-American representation on the boards of various Catholic welfare organizations.

Formation

In 1925, one year after reorganizing themselves as the Federated Colored Catholics, Turner and his supporters convened in Washington, D.C. At the convention, Turner described the FCC as "a voice of the Catholic Negro in America." The first constitution further expressed the goals of the Federation:

The object of this Federation shall be to bring about a closer union and better feeling among all Catholic negroes, to advance the cause of Catholic education throughout the Negro population, to seek to raise the general Church status of the Negro and to stimulate colored Catholics to a larger participation in racial and civic affairs.[1]

Internal conflicts and division

Differences in outlook among Turner, John LaFarge, and William Markoe served as the catalyst for a number of conflicts that beset the FCC between 1925 and 1932. After the 1932 convention, the FCC changed its name to the National Catholic Federation for the Promotion of Better Race Relations and renamed its journal the Interracial Review. As a result of his protesting against the change, the federation's executive committee removed Thomas Wyatt Turner from office, a decision that led to the splintering of the organization.

According to Cyprian Rowe "their differences ultimately caused ecclesiastical supports to be pulled away from the Federated Colored Catholics". Soon after the split, Father Markoe was reassigned and left the National Catholic Federation for the Promotion of Better Race Relations, but continued throughout his lifetime to work on issues related to interracial justice. Father LaFarge continued to write on race issues as well, playing a vital role in the establishment and direction of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York.

Thomas W. Turner became president of the Federated Colored Catholics which continued under this name until 1958. However, the group lacked the focus and vitality that it had exhibited prior to the split.

References

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