Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


According to Alphonso Pinkney, religion has been important to black people. He writes: Religion has traditionally played an important role in the life of black Americans. The character of their religion is a reflection of their uncertain status in the larger society. Denied the opportunity to participate as equals in the religious life and other institutions of the larger society, black people organized their own religious denominations as a means of coping with the social isolation which they encountered. As the opportunities for social, economic, and educational advancement became feasible for the black however, he became less satisfied with his religion and began to look in other directions for finding religious satisfaction. It appears that a significant number of blacks who were dissatisfied with their affiliation with the black Protestant denominations turned to Catholicism. For the past quarter of a century, researchers have speculated over the reasons for blacks converting to Catholicism. Except in passing references in larger studies, little research of a sociological nature has been completed on the topic. Daniel F. Collins and Joe R. Feagin provide the two exceptions. Collins studied black converts to Catholicism in Durham, North Carolina; and attempted to understand their conversion through reference to characteristics of the black Protestant churches.2 Feagin traced the historical background of black Catholicism and then presented membership data for the years 19*1-7, 1957, and 196?, indicating dramatic increases in numbers of black Catholics. Lacking attitudinal data, Feagin speculated that four explanations might be employed in understanding black adult conversion: "... the educational, status, ritual, and civil rights attractiveness of the American church ..." Using Feagin1s perspective, the author will attempt to provide a greater understanding of why black conversion to Catholicism occurs. More specifically, the researcher will attempt to determine whether conversion to Catholicism is related to social status strivings, viewing parochial educational systems as being more likely to provide integrated schooling and high quality education, preferring the more formal ritualistic worship service found in the Catholic church, and viewing the Catholic church and clergy as being more helpful in the civil rights cause.


Race and Ethnicity | Religion | Sociology