October 9, 1842:
On this day St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans, the first black church in Louisiana and the first black Catholic church in the United States, held its first service.
St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans is in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1841 under the episcopacy of Bishop Antoine Blanc, who later served as New Orleans’ first Archbishop. Established by free people of color, who also bought pews for slaves, this is the oldest African-American Catholic parish in the nation. It was one of the first 26 sites designated on the state’s Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
In the 1830s a group of free African-American New Orleanians began organizing to create a Catholic church in Tremé, a historically black and multicultural New Orleans neighborhood. With the blessing of Antoine Blanc (1792-1860), the first Archbishop of New Orleans, the parish was founded in 1841 and the first ceremony was held there on October 9, 1842. A group of white Catholics, angered that a Catholic church aimed at black New Orleanians was to be built, began a campaign to purchase pews in an attempt to outnumber the black parishioners. This effort was unsuccessful, as free blacks still greatly outnumbered whites. Additionally, reputedly a first in American history, black members pooled resources to purchase pews for slaves.
St. Augustine Church has remained a central figure in the cultural and spiritual community of black New Orleans since its founding.