Category Archives: Daniel Rudd

This Hairdresser Slave is on the Way to Sainthood*

Pierre Toussaint                                        en wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

There have been many great Black Americans who have stood tall to help make America the proud nation it is today. Rev.Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and the list goes on.

Included, among those are also Black Catholic Americans *(Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is Catholic).  The names of these  people are not so recognizable as the aforementioned.  Such people as Father Augustus Tolton, born a slave he was the first African American to be ordained a priest in the United States.

Others include: Henriette Delille, the founder of The Sisters of the Holy Family; Mother Mathilda Beasley who became known as “The Idol of the Poor”; Daniel Rudd, a black Catholic journalist who founded the National Black Catholic Congress and  Elizabeth Mary Lang. Born a slave she became the co-foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

Another person who is part of the legacy that Black Catholic Americans left for all of us is Venerable Pierre Touissant.

Pierre was born a slave in Haiti in 1766. He was fortunate because his owner, Monsieur Berard, wealthy from raising and selling sugar, baptized Pierre into the Catholic faith and also educated him. He trained the boy as a house slave saving him from all the hard labor expended by those working out in the sugarcane fields.

Tensions were rising among the slave population in Haiti and the senior Berard returned to France. He left his son, Jean Berard, with the plantation. However, the pressure was building among the slaves over conditions and Jean decided it was time to leave. In 1787, he and his wife took five of his slaves with him including Pierre and his sister, Rosalie, and moved to New York City.

Jean Berard’s decision to leave Haiti proved to be a good one. In 1793, the slaves in Haiti revolted and Monsieur Berard heard that his plantation had been burned to the ground. He was so distraught that he passed away, probably from heart failure. Madame Berard was left without anything or anyone to help her, except, of course, Pierre.

When they arrived in New York several years earlier, Jean Berard had managed to get Pierre into an apprenticeship hairdresser program. The young man turned out to be an artist at hair styling. It was during  a time when the wealthy women had their hair stacked high with layers of curls and ribbons flowing down. Hair styling was time consuming and demanding and soon Pierre had more business than he could handle.

Pierre supported Madame Berard and was working almost 16 hours a day.  She eventually married a man named Monsieur Nicolas, also from Haiti. She made him promise that if anything happened to her he would make sure that Pierre was given his freedom. She passed away and Pierre was given his freedom. He had earned enough money to pay for the freedom of his fiancee, Juliette, and marry her. He also earned enough money to pay for Rosalie’s freedom. By this time Pierre was almost 45.

Pierre constantly spoke of the love of God and the beauty of the Catholic faith. He loved being Catholic and had no qualms about talking about it with his many customers. It did not matter to him that most were not Catholic and, for the most part, did not even like Catholics. He just wanted others to experience the joy he had in knowing his Catholic faith helped fill him with God’s love and they could have the same by embracing that same faith..

Pierre Toussaint was dedicated to the theological virtue of Charity (aka) Love. He cared for the sick and even brought them into his home nursing them back to health. He visited areas infected with disease and plague bringing food and clothing to the suffering. He even went to those who had been abandoned by their own families. He helped Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton (who had  an orphanage in the city) by raising money from his rich customers and giving the future saint his own money.

This was a Black Catholic man living during a time when being Catholic was even dangerous for white folks.  He attended daily Mass every day for 66 years. He sheltered orphans, provided foster care for children, helped them get into school and even helped some of them get their first jobs. During a cholera epidemic he crossed over the quarantine lines to help the sick without regard for his own well being.

Pierre Toussaint’s crowning achievement may have been his helping the Catholic Church raise the funds to build the first St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry St. He also provided and raised funding for the First Catholic School for Black children at St. Vincent de Paul in lower Manhattan.

Pierre Toussaint died on June 30, 1857. He was 87 years old. In 1991, based on documents and investigations into his life, Pierre was declared a Servant of God. In 1996 he was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II reaching the second step on the journey to canonization. In addition, he was the first layman honored by having his remains moved to  the present St. Patrick’s  Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint we thank you for your Love and ask for your continued prayers.

*This article first appeared in Aleteia on February 10, 2017

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017   (©reprinted and updated  Larry Peterson 2020)

 

Daniel Rudd; Born into Slavery, He Became One of the Great Black Catholics in American History

Daniel Rudd                                                                                catholic365.com

By Larry Peterson

Honoring Black History Month; 2019

Daniel Rudd was born on August 7, 1854 and was one of twelve children. His dad was a slave on the Rudd estate close to Bardstown, Kentucky and his mom was a slave on the Hayden plantation in Bardstown. Since the Rudd’s and Hayden’s were Catholic, so were Daniel’s parents. It followed that Daniel was baptized into the Catholic faith at St. Joseph’s Church. The fifteen year old daughter of his owner stood up for him as his God-mother.
 

Daniel’s relatives had been church sextons at St. Joseph’s for three generations and Daniel was taught how to care for the church. He was quoted as saying he never experienced any segregation in his church. “We have been all over St. Joseph Church from foundation stone to pinnacle and no one ever told us to move.” Daniel Rudd grew up loving his Catholicism.

During the pre-civil war era of slavery, slaves were not allowed to attend school. It is thought that Daniel’s priest at St. Joseph’s is the one who tutored him. After the Civil War, Daniel moved to Ohio with his brother, Charles. He actually managed to finish high-school (at the time a rare achievement for a young, white man, no less a black man) and, upon graduating, became a political activist in the fledgling and dangerous civil rights movement. This is also when he landed his first job at a newspaper. The year was 1880.

 
Daniel Rudd, filled with an entrepreneurial spirit, opened the first newspaper by and for African- Americans in January of 1885. It was called the “Ohio State Tribune”. One year later the name was changed to the “American Catholic Tribune”. The opening statement emblazoned across the front page was; 
 
“We will do what no other paper published by colored men has dared to do—give the great Catholic Church a hearing and show that it is worthy of at least a fair consideration at the hands of our race, being as it is the only place on this Continent where rich and poor, white and black, must drop prejudice at the threshold and go hand in hand to the altar.”
 
This was an incredibly courageous way to launch his paper. At the time Catholics were, for the most part, looked down upon. Most African-Americans were Protestant and knew nothing about the Catholic Church. Yet Daniel Rudd, who was an “outsider” to his own people, was reaching out to them and asking them to consider converting. He let them know the Catholic Church was the “real answer” because it welcomed everyone. Somehow Daniel stood firm in the face of danger. His faith was his fortress because even the Ku Klux Klan, who were continually persecuting blacks, hated the Catholics too.
 
Daniel Rudd managed to stay safe and went on to become a noted journalist, speaker and advocate for Black Catholicism. In 1889, he and Father Augustus Tolton (a former slave and the first ordained African-American priest in America) began the National Black Catholic Congress in Washington D.C.  By then his newspaper had a circulation of 10,000 readers. Mr. Rudd also was a leader of the Afro-American Press Association, was a founding member of the Catholic Press Association and helped found the Black Lay Catholic Movement. 
 
Daniel Rudd, born a slave, became one of the most influential African-American Catholics in American history. In 1912 he moved to Arkansas where he taught in local schools and co-authored the biography of the first black millionaire in Arkansas, Scott Bond. Daniel Rudd’s Catholic faith was his anchor in the storm, the foundation for his courage and his comfort in the darkness he experienced. He passed to his eternal reward in 1932.
 
His message to his African-American brothers and sisters was:
 
“The Negro of this country; abused, downtrodden, and condemned, needs all the forces which may be brought to bear in his behalf to elevate him to that plane of equality. The HOLY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH offers to the oppressed Negro a material as well as a spiritual refuge. We NEED the Church, the church WANTS us. Investigate brethren!”
 
                               ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved