Black History Month has a little known Catholic history as wellRoundup
tags: Black History Month, religious history, Catholic history
Shannen Dee Williams is the Albert Lepage assistant professor of history at Villanova University. She is completing her first book, “Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle,” under contract with Duke University Press.
In 1949, famed Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes celebrated Negro History Week (the precursor to Black History Month) with members of the Oblate Sisters of Providence and their students at the all black and Catholic St. Alphonsus School in Wilson, North Carolina.
“The Negro nuns had an assembly of tiny youngsters who did all by themselves a fine Negro History program,” Hughes wrote in The Chicago Defender one week later. And of particular delight to the esteemed poet had been the students’ apt recitation of his protest poem, “Freedom’s Plow.”
“Who is America?” the students chanted. “You, me! We are America!”
Originally published in 1943, “Freedom’s Plow” charted the long African American struggle for freedom, justice and equality from slavery to the present. During World War II, the poem had also served as a call to action for African Americans struggling against fascism abroad and at home.
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