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Sun, 01.01.1899

The First National Black Catholic Congress is Held

Daniel Rudd

*The first National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC) was held in Washington, D.C., on this date in 1889.

Founded by Daniel Rudd (image), William H. Smith, acting and temporary chairman, addressed the assembly and set the purpose of the Congress, stating, "We have come to talk about our needs as a people, and by conference and consultation to try and devise ways and means of bettering our condition both religiously and socially." This purpose permeated the following four Congresses, all held before the turn of the Nineteenth Century.  William H. Smith also addressed the community saying, "Truth is the strongest armor a person can possess, and we are told, 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' Our object is, or should be, the truth."

Two hundred delegates met with President Grover Cleveland at the White House. Robert L. Ruffin of Boston was the spokesman for the delegation. Rev. Augustus Tolton celebrated High Mass, women's role in evangelizing was recognized, and a resolution was made "that we express our sympathy with our brethren of the Emerald Isle, who like ourselves are struggling for justice."   Their first meeting at St. Augustine Catholic Church, founded by the NBCC.  Men of African descent came from all over the United States to participate in this historic event.  Rudd orchestrated five Black Congresses in his time.  One was held in 1894 at St. Peter Claver Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and an opening dinner was held at historic St. Francis Xavier Church.

The NBCC’s African American Roman Catholic member organizations collaborate with National Roman Catholic organizations. They help establish an agenda for the evangelizing of African Americans and improve the spiritual, mental, and physical conditions of African Americans. They are committed to the freedom and growth of Blacks as full participants in church and society. Aware of the challenges, they hold themselves accountable to a baptismal commitment to witness and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ."

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