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Black Catholic historian Dr. Shannen Dee Williams helps establish Cyprian Davis prize

A new prize spearheaded by national Catholic organizations seeks to encourage and reward research on Black Catholicism.

A joint operation between the University of Notre Dame's Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism and the American Catholic Historical Association (ACHA) has resulted in a new prize meant to foster and celebrate research on Black Catholics.

Named after the late Black Catholic monk, priest, and pioneer in Black Catholic historical research, the Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., Prize will award $1,000 to one winner next Spring, and each year thereafter.

The initiative was spearheaded by Dr. Shannen Dee Williams of Villanova University, who proposed it to the ACHA this past summer.

The ACHA thereafter agreed to sponsor the proposal with the Cushwa Center, which has a long history of helping the Black Catholic cause—including an agreement to co-sponsor the Black Catholic Theological Symposium in October 2021 on ND's campus.

The award is the "first formal collaboration" between the ACHA and the Cushwa Center, according to Kathleen Sprows Cummings, the director of the latter.

Each recipient will also be featured at the next year's ACHA meeting, and will provide an interview and report of their work.

The first winner will be honored at the ACHA meeting in January 2021.

Thirty years ago, the late Fr. Davis wrote the preeminent text in the field, "The History of Black Catholics in the United States", which in 1991 won the John Gilmary Shea Prize for "original and distinguished contribution" to Catholic history.

The book made him "the most well-known and well-loved Black Catholic scholar in the world," according to Dr. Cecilia Moore of the University of Dayton upon the occasion of his death in 2015.

He led or assisted with several other academic and activist initiatives, including his six other books, his participation in the March on Washington in 1963. and his help in founding the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus in 1968. He later served as the archivist for the latter group.

Fr. Davis also helped draft the two 20th-century episcopal letters against racism: "Brothers and Sisters to Us" from the USCCB in 1970, and "What We Have Seen and Heard" from its Black bishops in 1984.

Applications for the prize are to be submitted online and require a curriculum vitae as well a 1,000-word project description.

The deadline for the inaugural round of submissions is December 31.

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