Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This study examines the pastoral letters of Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel. Rummel served as the archbishop of the New Orleans archdiocese during a very tumultuous period in New Orleans’ history, 1935-1964. In the four decades before Rummel’s arrival, the archdiocese of New Orleans became increasingly segregated. Segregation became Church policy, as the New Orleans Catholic Church shunned its integrationist roots. As the infamous school crisis of 1960 raged in New Orleans and gained national attention, as leader of the Catholic faithful, Rummel would be confronted with the seminal question of his tenure, what was his stance on segregation in the Church and in public schools? Rummel soon made it clear that he was opposed to segregation in the Church and in the spaces of the public. His increasing age, fragility, and fear of repercussions from racists within his Church and in the state legislature made him appear quite timid on the issue, as the Catholic schools integrated after the public schools in New Orleans. Further, his refusal to advocate for public marches, at a cursory glance, might make him seem weak and out of place in the discussion of the civil rights movement in New Orleans. However, this research examines five of his pastoral letters to contend that Rummel did engage in a form of protest. This protest was rooted in principles of Catholic universalism, Christian principles, and democratic ideals. His words opposing segregation, as examined in his pastoral letters, were rooted in spiritual discourses, not legalistic ones. These discourses were largely very different from the discourses engaged by more well-known Protestant ministers and from the legalistic discourses used in the legal fight to end segregation in this nation. His form of protest was not a public one, but a spiritual one. The Modern Civil Rights Movement is often examined from the vantage point of Brown and its aftermath. Consequently, the Catholic Church is largely excluded from the story. This historical study uses historical methods, including using the archives as sites of memory, thematic analysis, and primary and secondary sources to show that Rummel does have a prominent place in the story of integration in New Orleans.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Hendry, Petra

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