Black Catholic History Month: The Catholics in My Families

The number of black Catholics in the United States is small.  I know this both anecdotally and empirically.   I  was probably a teenager before I met another black Catholic family.   My parents, each for their own reasons,  converted to Catholicism as teenagers.   They did not know each other at the times of their conversions.

My mother was raised as the granddaughter and niece of Baptist preachers, and not surprisingly was the cousin of a couple more Baptist preachers.  Later, she was active in Methodist youth activities.   But having concluded for her own reasons that she belonged in the Catholic Church, she’s been a faithful and devout Catholic for, well, let’s just say more than a few decades.    I never knew until recently that there were other Catholics in her family tree.  For example, her cousin Amos Johnson, Jr. (1908-1975) , grandson of

Amos R. Johnson, Jr.

Amos R. Johnson, Jr.

Ezekiel Johnson and Sarah Gilbert, was Catholic.     A longtime federal civil servant, he was a member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Kansas City, and served on the Catholic Interracial Council and the National Council of Catholic Men.  He is buried in Mt Olivet Cemetery in Kansas City.  I don’t know how much more of the Johnson branch of the family was Catholic or how any of them can to be Catholic.

On my father’s side of the family, uncle  Herman Walker (1906-2002) was a Catholic. He was born the son of my dad’s grandmother, Hattie Bryant.  Living his mother’s peripatetic life,  would seem not conducive to regular religious instruction except of the most primitive sort.   I do know that Herman became Catholic about the time he met and married Ida Mouton, a Louisiana woman who was a life-long Catholic.   H became very active in St Paul’s parish in Houston where he attended Mass for nearly seventy years.   He was a member of the Knights of Columbus.


Herman Arthur Walker (1906-2002), our only known Catholic paternal uncle, with my sister, in Houston, Texas, 1962.


4 Responses to “Black Catholic History Month: The Catholics in My Families”

  • Steve Bowie says:

    Hi Craig:

    Sorry for the late comment, but I’m just now catching up to a lot of things, your blog amongst them. Remember a lot of the early Bowies in Louisiana were baptised in the Catholic Church at a least two of them (James {II} and Albert) were married Catholic and promised to raise any children in the faith.

    Happy New Year!

  • Greta Koehl says:

    There are also black Eastern Catholics; my Melkite parish is an example.

  • Sheri Fenley says:

    You know I am Catholic and after reading this post and trying to recall each parish I have lived in I have to agree that Black Catholics are far and few between. However, My Irish Catholic family in Vigo County, Indiana were enumerated as Blacks in the 1850 census.

    I also wanted to tell you that I saw the Video interview with the Genealogy Guys you did and wanted to say – You are now a Rock Star! As if you aren’t world famous already now they will be knocking down the doors to get your autograph!

November 2009
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