All year St. Kate's has been holding events in conjunction with A Good Time for the Truth @ St. Kate's, including the author panel February 23. But did you know that some College of St. Catherine alumnae were instrumental in establishing interracial justice in the Twin Cities during the 1950s and 1960s?
Patricia Parlin Caponi, a 1952 graduate of the College of St. Catherine, was a founding member of the Catholic Interracial Council of the Twin Cities (CICTC), serving as its first Secretary from 1958-1959. The CICTC was founded by several young people troubled by segregation and the struggles of minority groups in the United States. The group based its mission on applying Catholic principals and social justice teachings to racial problems in local communities. Patricia Parlin Caponi donated a collection of the organization’s documents to the St. Catherine University Archives and Special Collections, and the current display shows some of these items.
As of 1959 the CICTC had over 100 members, including a large number of nuns, priests, and other clergy. Along with organizing local events, the group partnered with the Friendship House in Chicago, which had created a Home Visit Program in which small groups of Caucasian participants visited African American homes for coffee and discussion with their hosts to encourage interracial dialogue and understanding. As stated by the brochure advising the hosts of these Home Visits, most of the visitors on the Home Visits had never been in the home of an African American family before, and the brochure for visitors encouraged them to ask questions about their hosting family’s experiences with such issues as discrimination in housing, schooling, and restaurant service. The Chicago organization also created a number of brochures intended to dispel racist myths and raise awareness about racism, several of which can be seen in this display.
Local CICTC events included hosting speakers on race relations, performing community outreach, and in 1959 addressing the Judiciary Committee of the Minnesota Senate in support of desegregating housing. A copy of the remarks is included in the display. The group also held a yearly Human Rights Workshop, the fourth of which, themed “Improving Race Relations in your Parish,” was held on the St. Kate’s campus in 1962 with mass, several panel discussions, luncheon, and a social hour included in the day’s program. You can read its announcement in the November 14, 1962 issue of The Wheel. The CICTC also published its own newsletter, Branches, an issue of which can be seen in the display and which contains Branches’ commentary on the 1962 March on Washington.
Thanks to the efforts of Patricia Parlin Caponi, her sister Nancy Parlin, other alumnae, and many others, the Catholic Interracial Council of the Twin Cities was able to work toward making a positive impact during the turbulent era of the late 1950’s to mid-1960’s.
Stop by the Catholic Interracial Council of the Twin Cities display in the Library, now through March 5. And if you would like to view the collection and learn more about what was happening in the Twin Cities during the civil rights movement, visit the St. Catherine University Archives and Special Collections, located in the lower level of the Library and open from 9:30 to 4:30, Monday through Friday.