This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

‘Bring God to the Negro, Bring the Negro to God’: Thomas Joseph Toolen, Archbishop of Mobile (1927-1969), His Culture, His Religion, and His Mission




Claridy, Keith

Type of Degree





Archbishop Thomas Joseph Toolen was the Bishop of Mobile through some rather turbulent times for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mobile. One of the most frequently occurring questions he had to deal with was the question of race. During the early decades of his episcopate, Toolen carried out his mission of saving the souls of Alabama’s African Americans by establishing separate missions, thereby expanding the South’s only truly biracial religion while also respecting societal norms crystallized in the Jim Crow laws of segregation. When the atmosphere was such that it was practical, Toolen acted quietly to integrate all levels of Catholic education which included Spring Hill College in 1954 and the parochial school system in 1964. As the Civil Rights Movement brought turbulence and violence to the State of Alabama, Toolen responded by condemning the activists’ methods, not their goals.