Dr. Gary Agee recently crossed racial and denominational lines to study the history of racism in the church. After many years of research, Agee, an adjunct professor of church history at the Anderson University School of Theology, has published A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and his Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism and Activism.
Agee’s book was written as part of his dissertation. Throughout his studies, Agee was interested in the history of racism in the church, specifically in the Roman Catholic Church. In his studies, Agee came across the messages of Daniel Rudd, a black Catholic publisher and civil rights leader who spoke to the issues that Agee was interested in.
The book, which was released in January 2012, speaks to the life of Daniel Rudd. Rudd was born a slave in 1854. During the Civil War, the Jesuits took an interest in the young man and brought him into the church. After emancipation, Rudd worked as a reporter and founded both The Ohio State Tribune and later The American Catholic Tribune, an African-American newspaper.
Rudd’s constant communication about the role of racism in the church was a part of what helped to eliminate the color line in the Catholic Church while continuing to lead the “Black Catholic Congress Movement."
“I very much connect with Rudd’s message of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man,” said Agee. “Although I am neither African-American nor a member of the Catholic Church, I believe that Rudd’s message relates directly to our mission statement here in the School of Theology.”
Since having his book published, Agee has had the opportunity to speak at various gatherings. Agee has been featured at several colleges, sharing Rudd’s message and continuing to work against racism in the church. In addition to book talks, Agee has been interviewed several times, including segments on National Public Radio.
Students have found Rudd’s work especially interesting. “I enjoy having the opportunity to be taught by professors such as Dr. Agee. Agee brings a great deal of passion and knowledge about the history of the church to the School of Theology,” said Evan Cottle, a master’s student in the School of Theology.
While many people have benefited from Agee’s work, it is he who has gained the most. “While I was writing on topics outside of my everyday life, extending myself to things I am not, it allowed me the opportunity to write an intellectual biography and take a serious look at both racism and other denominations,” said Agee. “As Christians, we are asked to connect with people across differing races and denominations, to dialogue and engage with them. That is what Rudd did and what I intend to do.”
— Kimberly Werline is a senior from Anderson, Ind., majoring in communication arts. Werline is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications. Photo credit: Haley Burger.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.