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Faithful Figures in Black History

Dear Friends and Parishioners,

Originally known as Negro History Week in 1926, Historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent figures desired an opportunity to deepen everyone’s awareness about the contributions and key roles of African Americans in our society.  This commemoration was initially observed during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

By the time the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s became part of society’s fabric, several cities in our country were already observing February as Black History Month.

Since 1976, every American president has officially designated February as Black History Month to foster a deeper and keener appreciation for the African American community in the United States.

Prominent figures arose throughout American history. They include Isabella Bomfree (aka Sojourner Truth), Harriett Tubman, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Ethel Payne, Malcom X, and Gordon Parks.

This year’s theme is Black Resistance, highlighting how African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings.

In addition to our national observance in February, the Catholic Church in the United States also designates November as Black Catholic History Month in an effort to highlight key African American women and men who lived out their Catholic faith in an exemplary manner. 

Some of those figures are Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Venerable Henriette DeLille, Venerable Fr. Augustus Tolton, Servant of God Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, Julia Greeley, and Sister Thea Bowman.

For Catholics it’s important to know our history, both within our Church and as citizens of this great country.  These men and women serve as living models for all of us.  They belong to our collective story.  They teach us many lessons of how to live in the midst of adversity and oppression while pointing to the needs for ongoing reform in the hearts of individuals and within the various institutions they lived.  Let us be inspired by each of them as we continue to advocate for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every one of our citizens.

In Christ Our Lord and Redeemer,

Fr. Gurnick