STL 250: 1845 Negro School Opens in Turmoil

As St. Louis turns 250 this year (learn more at STL250), the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet join the celebration by sharing bits of our own 175+ years of history in St. Louis, the city of our founding. Look for new posts every Friday throughout 2014.

St. Joseph School for Negro Girls

On February 5, 1845 the third mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph in America - St. Joseph School for Negro Girls - was started. Father Augustus Paris founded the school with full approval of Bishop Peter Kenrick, the new bishop of St. Louis. There, Sisters St. John Fournier, Antoinette Kincaid and St. Protais Deboille taught the basic course as well as French and embroidery. They eventually had a hundred students, without counting the children of slaves who came in the afternoons and on weekends for catechetical instruction.

STL 250: 1845 Negro School Opens in Turmoil

Sister St. John Fournier described the short history of the school saying:

The first mission in St. Louis [was] a school for liberated Negroes. Obedience sent me there with two other sisters. We also prepared slaves for the reception of the sacraments, and this displeased the whites very much.

After some time, they threatened to have us put out by force. The threats were repeated every day. Finally, one morning as I was leaving the church, several people called out to me and told me that they were coming that night to put us out of the house. I said nothing to the sisters, and was not afraid, so great confidence had I in the Blessed Virgin! I put some miraculous medals on the entrance gate and on the fences (we already had them on all doors and windows of the house).

At eleven o'clock, the sisters woke with a start when they heard a loud noise. Out in the street was a crowd of people crying out and cursing. We recited together the Memorare and other prayers. Suddenly, the police patrol came and scattered those villains who were trying to break open the door. They returned three times that same night, but our good Mother protected us and they were not able to open the door from the outside nor to break it down....

The day after our adventure, the Mayor of St. Louis advised Bishop Kenrick to close that school for a time and he did so.


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