Crossing the Lines of Race and Gender: The Quarrel on the Integration of the First Black Dominican Sisters in Natal
Keywords:Dominican sisters, Natal, integration, segregation, Oakford, Newcastle, Montebello
Black women expressed the desire to enter religious life in a Dominican Congregation of the Catholic Church of Natal for the first time in 1923. Since all the sisters of the two congregations they wanted to join (initially the Dominican Sisters of Oakford and, later on, the Dominican Sisters of Newcastle) were white, the question was raised of how the black candidates would relate to white sisters. Should they be fully incorporated into the congregation, simply attached to it or kept apart in an independent congregation of black sisters? The decision was in the hands of the women leading these congregations, of the local bishop and of the apostolic delegate sent by Rome to oversee the life of the church. This paper looks at the manner in which race and gender shaped the history of the black sisters in the Dominican Congregations of Oakford, Newcastle and eventually Montebello in inter-war Natal. It argues that, for different reasons and according to different timeframes, the leadership of the Congregations of Oakford and Newcastle ended up consenting to a model of segregation under the control of white sisters. In the Congregation of Newcastle, at least, the black sisters themselves favoured integration.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Philippe Denis
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