Whenever I get into this subject, I’m sure it always sounds self-serving — the importance of local journalism and the American public’s support of it. But let’s give credit where it’s due.

As I worked on my Friday Sun column, I had a question: How did majestic old St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in East Baltimore become, in 1968, St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, home to the nation’s first parish of Black Catholics?

The published accounts that I found, including an otherwise solid story in The Sun in the 1990s, offered no explanation about that transition. But Paul McCardell, the Sun’s longtime librarian, found a missing piece. In a story, published in 1970 in the bygone Baltimore Evening Sun (right), an outspoken Josephite priest assigned to the parish stated his view of it: The whites “ran out” of the solidly Irish-Catholic neighborhood. It appears that a merger of the historic parishes never happened, and that fits with the grand sweep of Baltimore history as courts broke the locks of state-sanctioned segregation and, in reaction, white families moved from their old neighborhoods.

St. Francis Xavier still stands today as a Black parish that traces its history back to Baltimore in the late 18th Century.

It’s interesting that the change occurred in one of the most tumultuous years in American history: 1968. The war in Vietnam was at its height and, largely because of it, President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek a second term. Bobby Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated. Cities, including Baltimore, were hit with race riots, fires and murders. White flight had already been underway, but it accelerated in the 1960s and 1970s.

When you look back on various records, that fact is seldom stated. Until recently, institutional histories rarely acknowledged the role of race in social change. It’s not surprising that newspapers, with their largely white staffs of reporters and editors in those days, worked around the uncomfortable fact of white flight. So even the brief reference to it, in Sharon Dickman’s 1970 story about the Rev. Phillip Linden, deserved to be recognized. It was local journalism. It filled out the record. If we lose that, we lose the full picture of our history.

4 thoughts on “Local journalism fills in the blanks

  1. Dan,

    It’s not self-serving on your part. The number of newspapers that have folded is staggering, especially in the rural areas where there are more reporters in the sports department than in the newsroom. And, there is little time for any form of investigative inquiry.

    But, you already know that.


    John N. Bambacus

    Sent by mobile


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan, I am a 79 year old white male who grew up in a row house in Northwood. I went to City schools and I did not recognize segregation and racism in elementary and secondary schools. In my late teens was when I started to recognize racism. I went off to U of Md in College Park, then lived in the DC area for 20 years including 1968. I was trapped in the city as DC was burning down. I was never so scared in my life. Racism was then in full bloom all around me. I’ve always been a republican and as a matter of fact I voted in DC in the first election DC residents were allowed to vote in a presidential election. I voted for Goldwater. Now I still own a business in Baltimore City and I am spending the last years of my life trying to be not at all racist. I’m doing a pretty good job. As a Republican I am totally embarrassed and ashamed of what Trump has done to the party and especially our country. He is the devil and an enemy to democracy. Although I don’t always agree with you I do respect you and especially your love for the city. Like you, I love to fish and enjoy the outdoors. I also love Baltimore. Thank you for standing up for the city, it’s tradition and helping me to better understand our community and to be a better man.
    Ken Wood

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dan, when I was a child we sometimes went to Mass at St. Paul’s. I remember it being a beautiful church. Across the street was the old St. Joseph’s Hospital. I remember sitting in the waiting room (alone!) while my parents visited my Great-Grandmother. The waiting room was just inside the front door. I guess the 1950s were a different world. When I became a nurse my first job was at the new St. Joseph Hospital, pre-UMMS.


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