The Catholic way: The Catholic diocese of Dallas and desegregation,1945-1971

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Neglected in the many studies of Dallas, Bishop Thomas K. Gorman and Catholic religious orders that staffed schools and churches in the Diocese of Dallas led the way in desegregation and achieved peaceful change ahead of secular institutions. Gorman and religious orders formulated, supported, and implemented desegregation policies without fanfare or publicity that might divide Catholics and arouse segregationist opposition from within and/or outside the Church's ranks. Black Catholics were far from quiescent and made important contributions to secular desegregation. In September 1955, two African American Catholics enrolled in Jesuit High, a boys’ school, making it the only desegregated school in Dallas. George Allen, the father of one of the boys, subsequently worked behind the scenes to negotiate desegregation of the city's buses and other public accommodations. Another African American lay Catholic, Clarence A. Laws, organized and led civil rights protests in the city as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Southwest regional director. White sisters also contributed to racial change. Even before the US Supreme Court ruled public school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education in May 1954, the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, without publicity, admitted African Americans to a white girls’ school, Our Lady of Victory, in Fort Worth, making it the first desegregated school in the city. However, residential segregation and white flight limited integration of Catholic schools and churches, and Catholic school desegregation largely involved the closure of black schools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-36
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of American Ethnic History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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