Healy, James Augustine
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Time Period
1830  - 1900
James Augustine Healy was born on a Georgia plantation to Michael Morris Healy, an Irish-born slave owner, and Mary Eliza Clark, a mixed-race slave. This made James a slave by law, but for the rest of his life he identified with and was accepted as a white Irish-American. He evaded Georgia’s slave laws by studying at Quaker schools in Long Island and New Jersey. He was able to join a seminary in Montreal, Canada in 1849 by not supplying a copy of his parents’ marriage certificate.

Healy went on to have a very successful career as a religious leader. He became an ordained priest on June 10, 1854 in the Notre Dame Cathedral, making him the first black priest of African descent. He became a bishop of Portland, Maine in 1875, another first for someone of African descent. Over his career, he established 60 parishes, 18 schools, and several welfare programs. During this time, he rarely discussed his ancestry.
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Race/Ethnicity and Religion
Catholic Religious Events and People in American History
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Race/Ethnicity and Religion in American History
Catholic Religious Events and People in American History
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Catholicism (Western Liturgical Family): Other ARDA Links


Rev. James Augustine Healy portrait- Hathi Trust- from History of the Catholic Church in the United States, vol 2 by Richard H. Clarke

James A Healy portrait- Internet Archive- from The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States by John Gilmary Shea

James A Healy portrait- Hathi Trust- from Representative Men of Maine by Henry Chase
Book/Journal Source(s)
Murphy, Larry, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary Ward, 1993. Encyclopedia of African American Religions. New York: Garland.
Reid, Daniel, Robert Linder, Bruce Shelley, and Harry Stout, 1990. Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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