Presenter Information

Douglas Slawson C.M.


The complicated history of the establishment of Saint Katharine’s, a black parish in New Orleans, is recounted. For reasons explained in the article, the city’s Catholic churches were originally racially integrated. There were two groups of blacks in New Orleans: colored Creoles (the term they used for themselves) and African Americans. Colored Creoles were people of Afro-French descent and they were Catholic. African Americans were Protestant and worshipped in separate churches from whites. This was partly because of racism in the white community and partly because African Americans wanted to control their own religious affairs. Francis Janssens, the archbishop, wanted blacks to control their churches and he wanted to win African American converts. Moreover, he believed there were many defections among colored Creoles. He saw the solution to all of this in Saint Katharine’s establishment, though he stressed that black Catholics were free to choose between it and their home parishes. The colored Creoles opposed segregation for any reason and therefore opposed Saint Katharine’s. The negotiations for its establishment with the Vincentians and with Katharine Drexel, who provided funds, are described in detail. Saint Katharine’s was dedicated in 1895. With the advent of official segregation, it became a successful parish.