NYC Woman’s Mid-19th Century Letter Asks Pope for ‘Salvation of Blacks’
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — On Oct. 29, 1853, Harriet Thompson took pen to paper, wrote a letter to the pope, and started a fight for equality for blacks in the Catholic Church.
Thompson, a black woman living in Lower Manhattan, was unhappy with the treatment she and her fellow African Americans were receiving not only from society but from the Church as well. So she took her concerns to the man at the top — writing a letter to Pope Pius IX.
In her eight-page missive, Thompson implored the pontiff to “provide for the salvation of the black race in the United States who is going astray from neglect on the part of those who have to care for souls.”
According to many historians, Thompson’s letter marked the beginning of the Black Catholic Movement in the U.S., which stretched well into the 20th century.