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Migrants and Missionaries

Migrants and Missionaries

“Foreign Missions” on the South Side of Chicago

(p.19) 1 Migrants and Missionaries
Authentically Black and Truly Catholic
Matthew J. Cressler
NYU Press

This chapter introduces readers to the rise of Black Catholic Chicago in the midst of the Great Migrations of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North, both in terms of demographic growth and the establishment of an institutional infrastructure. It argues that African American migrants were introduced to Catholicism by white missionaries who reimagined Black neighborhoods as “foreign missions” in need of conversion. The chapter discusses the fraught relationships forged between missionaries and migrants, which were defined by the tension between the missionary dedication to the salvation of African Americans on the one hand and the paternalism of missionary work among those perceived to be “heathens” on the other. It introduces readers to Fr. Joseph Eckert, one of the most successful missionaries among African Americans, and his methods for conversion that served as a model for the missionaries in chapter 2.

Keywords:   African American religion, American Catholicism, Great Migrations, evangelization, conversion, colonialism, missionary, heathen, Chicago

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