Professor Mark Newman Discusses “Desegregating Dixie”

  • February 23, 2023
  • Start Time: 12:00 pm ET
  • End Time: 1:00 pm ET
Learn how the Catholic Church impacted the movement for desegregation in the South.

In honor of Black History Month, join Professor Mark Newman of the University of Edinburgh as he discusses race and the Catholic Church from his book, Desegregating Dixie: The Catholic Church in the South and Desegregation, 1945-1992.

Winner of the 2020 American Studies Network Book Prize from the European Association for American Studies, Mark Newman draws on a vast range of archives and many interviews to uncover for the first time the complex response of African American and white Catholics across the South to desegregation. In the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, the southern Catholic Church contributed to segregation by confining African Americans to the back of white churches and to black-only schools and churches. However, in the twentieth century, papal adoption and dissemination of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, pressure from some black and white Catholics, and secular change brought by the civil rights movement increasingly led the Church to address racial discrimination both inside and outside its walls.

Far from monolithic, white Catholics in the South split between a moderate segregationist majority and minorities of hard-line segregationists and progressive racial egalitarians. While some bishops felt no discomfort with segregation, prelates appointed from the late 1940s onward tended to be more supportive of religious and secular change. Some bishops in the peripheral South began desegregation before or in anticipation of secular change while elsewhere, especially in the Deep South, they often tied changes in the Catholic churches to secular desegregation.

African American Catholics were diverse and more active in the civil rights movement than has often been assumed. While some black Catholics challenged racism in the Church, many were conflicted about the manner of Catholic desegregation generally imposed by closing valued black institutions. Tracing its impact through the early 1990s, Newman reveals how desegregation shook congregations but seldom brought about genuine integration.

Mark Newman received his PhD from the University of Mississippi and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Higher Education Academy. His book “Getting Right with God: Southern Baptists and Desegregation, 1945-1995″ won the Lillian Smith Book Award for nonfiction from the Southern Regional Council, the American Studies Network Book Prize from the European Association for American Studies, and the Anne B. and James B. McMillan Prize from the University of Alabama Press, and the book “Desegregating Dixie: The Catholic Church in the South and Desegregation, 1945-1992″ the American Studies Network Book Prize from the European Association for American Studies.  His article “The Catholic Church in Mississippi and Desegregation, 1963 – 1973” won the Willie D Halsell Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society, the article “Toward ‘Blessings of Liberty and Justice’: The Catholic Church in North Carolina and Desegregation, 1945-1974” received the R. D. W. Connor Award of the Historical Society of North Carolina, and the article “The Catholic Church in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston and Desegregation, 1945-1984” won the Paul Foik Award from the Texas Catholic Historical Society.

His research interests include Twentieth century United States: African American history, the civil rights movement, and religion and race relations in the US South.

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