National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice
Historical Note/Scope and Content

Records of a national federation of Catholic human relations agencies and interracial councils, including minutes of meetings of the board of directors, information on affiliated organizations, records of conventions and workshops, subject files, and files of staff members concerning conference services and projects in areas such as education, employment, and health care. Notable correspondents include Mathew Ahmann, John P. Sisson, and Margaret Traxler. Documentation for the last two decades is largely missing, due to the destruction of records in the NCCIJ's custody when it closed.

Purchased from the National  Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, 1971. Additions donated by the conference, 1973-1991.

Processed by Phil Runkel, 2007-2009. Routine correspondence and reference files were discarded.

Historical Note

The National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice (NCCIJ) was founded in 1960, two years after the U.S. Catholic bishops' statement on racial discrimination and segregation, to coordinate the efforts of Catholic interracial councils, first established in the 1930s under the leadership of John LaFarge, SJ. During its heyday in the 1960s, when it was headquartered in Chicago, the NCCIJ served as catalyst for the historic interfaith National Conference on Religion and Race and for Catholic involvement in the March on Washington and demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, and elsewhere in support of federal civil rights legislation. Notable initiatives included programs to combat employment discrimination (the interdenominational Project Equality, which became an independent organization in 1971) and provide human relations training for teachers. From its office in New Orleans, the conference's Southern Field Service assisted in the formation of more than two dozen interracial organizations in the South and Southwest. In the wake of the Black Power movement, the establishment of official diocesan human relations offices that supplanted the interracial councils, serious personnel conflicts, and financial shortfalls, however, the NCCIJ faced a challenge to its very existence by the early 1970s. It survived (as a membership organization rather than a federation) for three more decades, but with a much lower profile. In 1975 the conference moved its headquarters to Washington, DC, where it was seemingly overshadowed by the United States Catholic Conference. The NCCIJ suspended operations at the end of 2002.

Scope and Content

Series 1, General Administrative Files, 1960-1974, undated, contains files relating to general policies and procedures of the conference, and photographs of staff members and civil rights demonstrations in which they participated. It is arranged alphabetically by subject or type of document.

Series 2, Board of Directors, 1959-1983, is composed of minutes of meetings and related correspondence and memos, arranged in chronological order. (Audio recordings exist for meetings in 1971-1973; these are in Series 21).

Series 3, Commissions and Committees, 1960-1966, 1970-1971, 1983-1985, contains records of groups established by the Board of Directors to help formulate policies in areas such as governance, fundraising, and issues of concern to the conference. It is arranged in alphabetical order by name of commission or committee.

Series 4 , Executive Directors, 1961-1980, consists of information on the NCCIJ's executive officers, including clippings, speeches, and reports. Some correspondence of a more personal nature is also included here.

Series 5,  General Correspondence, 1959-1979, contains letters to and from the executive directors, arranged alphabetically and chronologically, respectively.

Series 6, National Conventions, 1958-1971, documents the conference's major meetings. Included are clippings, memoranda, programs, reports, and texts of talks. (Audio recordings are in Series 21).

Series 7, Conferences, Institutes, and Workshops, 1961-1981, 1983, 1987, contains files on other programs sponsored by the NCCIJ. Especially well documented are meetings of two bodies for which the NCCIJ served as secretariat: the Catholic Clergy Conference on the Interracial Apostolate and the National Conference on Religion and Race. (Audio recordings are in Series 21.)

Series 8, Publications, 1960-2001, consists of newsletters, press releases, proceedings, and other publications released by the conference, arranged by title.

Series 9, Project Files, 1960-1974, contains files on four projects of the NCCIJ: the African Extension Service (scholarships, employment assistance, and other services for students from Africa), the Citizens' Task Force of Inquiry Regarding Civil Liberties in Belfast, Northern Ireland (audio recordings made during the inquiry, including an interview of Ian Paisley, are in Series 21), the Police Ministries Project (not funded), and the Sojourner Truth Home (a temporary shelter for teenage girls, briefly sponsored by the NCCIJ). Files of the more extensive Project Bridge and Project Equality are in Series 16 and Series 13, respectively.

Series 10, Affiliated Organizations, 1958-1972, documents relations between the NCCIJ and its affiliated Catholic Interracial Councils and diocesan  and archdiocesan human relations agencies. Included are clippings, correspondence, memos, newsletters, and reports. The series us arranged alphabetically by state, and city thereunder.

Series 11, Regional Interracial Justice Activities (non-CIC), 1959-1978, documents relations between the NCCIJ and unaffiliated diocesan/archdiocesan officials and groups. Included are correspondence, memos, and reports. The series us arranged alphabetically, first by state and then by diocese/archdiocese.

Series 12, Employment Services Department, 1964-1969, consists of publications, reports, and speeches by the department's director, Thomas Gibbons. The files of the department's major initiative, Project Equality, are in Series 13.

Series 13, Project Equality, 1965-1970, contains the files of a national program to promote equal employment opportunities for African-Americans and other minorities by means of the hiring and purchasing practices of religious groups. (Initiated by the NCCIJ but interdenominational from the beginning, PE became an independent organization in 1971.) It is organized into subseries consisting of administrative subject files (1), files of compliance reviews (3) and meetings (2), geographic files containing information on PE affiliates (4), publications (5), and publicity (6).

Series 14, Development/Fundraising Files, 1960-1979, documents efforts to secure funding for the conference and raise its profile among bishops and other potential donors, notably including the John XXIII International Institute, a short-lived undertaking of executive director James T. Harris which commenced with a testimonial dinner in honor of Cardinal Terence Cooke.

Series 15, Urban Services Department, 1964-1971, documents efforts to address the housing and development needs of the inner cities, as manifested by the "civil disorders" of the 1960s. It includes files concerning a Ford Foundation-funded project to examine Catholic church ownership and investment, resulting in an audit of the Cleveland diocese. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject or type of document.

Series 16, Project Bridge, 1967-1969, consists of correspondence, reports, and news clippings documenting a Ford Foundation-funded attempt of the NCCIJ and American Council for Nationalities Service to promote dialogue between African Americans and white ethnic groups in Cleveland, Ohio. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject or type of document.

Series 17, Educational Services Department, 1964-1972, contains files on programs developed by long-time director Sr. Margaret Traxler and other staff members, including a college teacher exchange program and Traveling Workshops on Intergroup Relations, staffed by teams of five nuns with doctorates. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject or type of document.

Series 18, Subject Files, 1959-1986, contains files relating to a variety of issues of concern to the NCCIJ, including housing discrimination and interracial marriage cases involving the conference as a "friend of the court" and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The NCCIJ's significant role in the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches is especially well documented.

Series 19, Health/Medical Services, 1965-1971, concerns efforts to assist hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities in meeting the health care needs of minorities, providing job opportunities for members of minority groups, and eliminating racial discrimination.

Series 20, Southern Field Service, 1961-1970, contains records of the NCCIJ's southern office, maintained during the 1960s to promote interracial councils and generally aid church efforts in behalf of civil rights in its 16-state area.  Of note are files on the amicus curiae brief supporting interracial marriage (the Loving case), a clergy consultation in Jackson, Mississippi, a program to prepare church leaders for community conflict, and the Meredith Mississippi Freedom March; and general correspondence of the directors, Henry Cabirac, Jr., and John P. (Jack) Sisson.

Series 21, Audio Recordings, 1958-1973, consists of recordings of meetings, interviews, and talks. Speakers include Mathew Ahmann, Daniel Berrigan, John Howard Griffin, Abraham Heschel, Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Robert F. Kennedy, William Stringfellow, and Sr. Margaret Traxler (interviewed by Studs Terkel).