The Southern Field Service of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, 1961-1969

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Abstract

Established in 1961, the Southern Field Service (SFS) of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice (NCCIJ) fostered interracialism and encouraged Catholic clergy and laity to work for the desegregation of Catholic schools, parishes, and organizations. It helped create Catholic interracial councils and provided them with direction and support. Although rebuffed by several prelates, the service worked closely with bishops and clergy in their desegregation efforts. With limited success, SFS urged clergy to participate in Project Equality, designed to ensure fair employment practices. Typifying its mostly behind-the-scenes approach, the service assisted participation in the Selma March, Meredith March, and other protests and provided an amicus curiae brief in Loving v. Virginia (1967), a United States Supreme Court ruling that outlawed anti-miscegenation laws. The SFS suffered from lack of funding, and its meager all-white staff sometimes struggled to understand or convey African American perspectives. Catholic interracialism declined amid a national declension from racial issues that terminated the funding on which SFS depended, forcing its cessation in 1969.
Original languageEnglish
JournalU.S. Catholic Historian
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Southern Field Service
  • National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice
  • desegregation
  • interracialism
  • Project Equality
  • civil rights movement

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