Catholic News Service, the USCCB-owned print syndication, has established a new Black Catholic history column, "The Griot's Cross", written by Dr. Shannen Dee Williams of Villanova University.

The name plays off the griot storytelling tradition of West Africa and the diaspora, and the first column in the series appeared today in The Central Minnesota Catholic (out of the Diocese of St. Cloud), covering the long history behind Saturday's appointment of Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the first African-American cardinal.

The column will appear once a month.

Dr. Williams, a history professor who has a forthcoming book on Black Catholic nuns in the United States (based on her dissertation), has been a leading figure in the current push for more recognition of Black Catholics in schools, churches, forums, and other events.

The creator of the #BlackHistoryIsCatholicHistory, #BlackCatholicHistoryMatters, and #BlackCatholicHistoryAlwaysMatters hashtags, she is one of the preeminent online voices advocating for Black Catholics.

She writes regularly for Catholic news outlets on the topic, and has also been quite vocal online about the shortcomings of both Catholic and secular media in covering it.

The newly-established Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., Prize for research on Black Catholicism was also the result of her advocacy and direct recommendation.

Throughout the pandemic, she has led webinars on the topic of Black Catholic history, both at her own institution and elsewhere, and it would appear that this won't be stopping anytime soon.


Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder of Black Catholic Messenger, a priesthood applicant with the Josephites, and a ThM student w/ the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).


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