St. Augustine's Seminary – Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi - Atlas Obscura

St. Augustine's Seminary

Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi

This Mississippi seminary was the first in America to train African-American priests. 


St. Augustine’s Seminary was founded by Fr. Matthew Christman in 1920 as the first seminary in the United States to train African-American men for religious life and priesthood.  

Until that time, the atmosphere of prejudice and racism against blacks in America extended into the Catholic Church; though there were around 150,000 African-American Catholics in 1910, there were only about 30 priests to offer them spiritual guidance and black men were not allowed to seek the priesthood.

However after years of arguments, negotiations, restrictions, and planning, permissions were given to establish the seminary. Originally located in Greenville, Mississippi, the seminary had 14 students by the end of its first year. The students were taught a variety of subjects in parochial school by the two priests who ran the seminary, Fr Christman and Fr. Jacobs. The students were even provided housing in the attic of the school. On May 23, 1932, four men, Anthony Bourges, Maurice Rousseve, Francis Wade, and Vincent Smith, became the first African-Americans to be ordained as priests by the seminary.  

After two years in Greenville, when it was determined that the intimidation methods of the Ku Klux Klan against Jews, Catholics, and African-Americans made the location of the seminary too hazardous for the priests and students, the seminary was moved to Bay St. Louis, where it remains today, as a symbol of historic progress.