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Black Catholics and Black Power

Black Catholics and Black Power

Concerned Black Catholics and the Struggle for Self-Determination

(p.116) 4 Black Catholics and Black Power
Authentically Black and Truly Catholic
Matthew J. Cressler
NYU Press

This chapter introduces the Black Catholic activists in Chicago who, inspired by Black Power and the Second Vatican Council, fought for the self-determination of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago and contributed to the birth of the national Black Catholic Movement. It argues that Black Power was more important than interracial liberalism with regard to Black Catholic involvement in the Black freedom struggles. It focuses on the protest movement to make Fr. George H. Clements, a prominent Black priest and activist, pastor of St. Dorothy parish. This movement united Black Catholics with Black Panthers and other Black Power organizations. The chapter discusses the creation of Black Catholic liturgies that creatively combined Catholic ritual practice with black cultural nationalism. It also illustrates that the incorporation of Black Power into Catholic life by activists was incredibly controversial, especially for other Black Catholics who objected to the “racial particularism” of Black nationalism, which they understood to be in conflict with Catholic universalism.

Keywords:   African American religion, American Catholicism, George Clements, Black Power, Black Panther Party, Black nationalism, Chicago, revolution, activism, Vatican II

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