The Ross-Yorke Controversy and Anti-Catholic Sentiment in Gilded Age San Francisco

Abstract: Through a careful examination of an argument between two men; Donald Ross of the American Protective Association and Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Peter Yorke, which was reported in great detail in the daily newspaper, The San Francisco Call, we see how prevalent these debates about religion and American identity were in civil society during the late nineteenth century. This episode illustrates the conflicts between religious freedom and American patriotism, the social and political upheaval caused by immigration and those resistant to welcoming the stranger, and the challenges of religious pluralism in cosmopolitan, Gilded Age San Francisco.


Evaluation: I believe that the best qualities of this essay are the descriptive narrative provided about the argument between these two men, the careful research conducted to uncover the biases inherent in the argument and the how this story brings to light the questions of the day about whether certain people can be truly American if they are not Anglo Saxon Protestants. These questions have lasting implications in American society, some of which are still unresolved.  Researching this topic helped me understand how intrinsically linked issues of immigration, religion, identity and discrimination are in our nation and that, at least in my experience of U.S. History survey courses, religion, as a motivating factor for peoples’ actions, is often omitted from teaching. This realization inspired me to “put religion” back into the story of our nations’ development in my capstone project. 

 

"Fought Together, Feared Together, Witnessed Together" Historiography of Catholic Nuns, Laypeople, and African Americans in the Struggle for Interracial Justice

Abstract: As a historiographical paper, the six sources studied provide a broad cross-section of Catholic involvement in the Civil Rights struggles of the mid-Twentieth century. Beginning with a narrative account of Sister Judith Mary’s account of her involvement in Selma, Alabama and moving through the decades to the Black Power movement, we see that Catholic nuns, and laypeople mainly served in supporting roles during this struggle, however their involvement radically influenced the Catholic Church itself as national parishes were challenged by the need to adapt to new members and ways of expressing their faith. The triple forces of Civil Rights, Vatican II and the Black Power movement combined to transform individual nuns, African Americans and Catholic laypeople into the Mystical Body of Christ. 


Evaluation: Researching this topic, Catholic involvement in the Civil Rights movement of the twentieth century, helped open my eyes to the complexities of this history. The strength of this paper comes from sources evaluated which provide a cross section of perspectives including those of the immigrant church, the migrated African American, Church response in the South, the post-Vatican II nun, and the empowered Black Catholic. Through this study, I have been inspired to continue to explore how religion and religious expression impacts and influences struggles for equality in American society. This theme is a strong current which runs through my capstone project.