Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Avella, Steven

Second Advisor

Jablonsky, Thomas

Third Advisor

Marten, James


On Milwaukee's State Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets stands St. Benedict the Moor Church. Apart from the lines of people who wait to be served by the daily meal program, the church and its adjoining buildings seem to be fairly life-less. Like many urban churches, its neighborhood was demolished by the expressway. Around it are various public buildings, a venerable Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and nearby the hulking remains of the once-thriving Pabst brewery. One could scarcely imagine that at one time this church was the center of an important and thriving ministry to African Americans sponsored and supported by the Roman Catholic church in Milwaukee. At its height it sustained a parish community for black Catholics, a nationally respected boarding grade and high school, and residences for the Capuchin priests and brothers who still tend to the needs of the small groups of Catholics who worship there. This dissertation is about the network of institutions that comprise St. Benedict the Moor Mission which provided a spectrum of services to African Americans. in Milwaukee. This study spans a fifty-five year period from 1908-1963 during which American Catholics made the transition from an European immigrant church to one about to be jettisoned into an uncertain future as a result of changes emanating from the Second Vatican Council and the social and cultural changes in American society during the mid-twentieth century. African Americans came in larger and larger numbers to northern cities at the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Attracted by the prospect of industrial work and anxious to remove themselves from the degradations of the Jim Crow south, African Americans carved out for themselves niches in many northern communities: Harlem in New York and "black belt" on the south side of Chicago. Milwaukee did not attract many in the first wave of internal migrants; only after World War II did the numbers of African Americans living in Brew City increase substantially. However, a small, but thriving black community developed on the city's near north side and an array of institutions stepped up to assist and help them adjust to conditions in the urban north. St. Benedict the Moor Mission was one of them...



Restricted Access Item

Having trouble?