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Making History: Primary Sources and Black Catholic History Month

By Henry Handley

Throughout November — Black Catholic History Month — we’ve been reflecting on how the University Libraries, particularly special collections, can contribute to the goals of the University of Dayton’s Flyers Plan for Community Excellence, such as the creation of “a robust curricular and co-curricular architecture to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.” One way to start is to learn more about what’s already in the catalog.

Searching for the subject heading “African American Catholics” or simply “Black Catholic” as a keyword search, you may be drawn to local connections such as the 2006 Marianist Award lecture "To be Both Black and Catholic" by Father Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. (also available for download in eCommons), or the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s 2008 publication Celebrating National Black Catholic History Month November 1990-2008: Tracing Your Catholic Roots. Davis’ groundbreaking book The History of Black Catholics in the United States and other Davis works are available in the main Roesch Library collection, and the Marian Library and the U.S. Catholic Special Collection have a range of primary and secondary sources, including official documents of the Catholic Church, sociological studies, and music and liturgy. I've compiled some starting points by collection:

Marian Library

U.S. Catholic Special Collection 

Roesch Library

Other resources

You can find more primary sources in the U.S. Catholic Special Collection’s archival collection of African American Catholic History Materials, which has materials with ties to Black Catholic organizations in Dayton and the Midwest as well as national groups like the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and the National Black Sisters Conference.

It’s more than a month: Change the default

Collecting materials isn’t the same thing as learning from them. Recognizing Black Catholic History Month is not truly impactful if whiteness is the default through the rest of the year. If you’re interested in incorporating special collections materials on Black Catholic history, theology, and music and art traditions into teaching, research and community life at UD, book an appointment with a librarian in the Marian Library or the U.S. Catholic Special Collection (the liaison for the philosophy and religious studies departments) or contact your department liaison.

— Henry Handley is a collections librarian and assistant professor in the Marian Library. Stephanie Shreffler, collections librarian/archivist and associate professor in the U.S. Catholic Special Collection, also contributed to this blog post.

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