Undergirded by a deeply felt commitment to a socially engaged Catholic humanism, John LaFarge, SJ was to become one of American Catholicism's leading voices in the advocacy of greater inter group toleration,understanding, and cooperation. LaFarge, who counted Benjamin Franklin and Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry among his ancestors, was born on February 13,1880 to artist John LaFarge and Margaret Mason Perry LaFarge of Newport,Rhode Island.
Having received his early education in Newport, LaFarge attended Harvard University, from which he obtained his B.A. in 1901. Immediately thereafter he studied theology at the University of Innsbruck (Austria), at the completion of which in 1905 he was ordained. Fr. LaFarge then entered the Poughkeepsie, NY seminary of the Society of Jesus.
Following service as a teacher and chaplain in New York and Baltimore,Fr. LaFarge went to Southern Maryland, where from 1911-26 he engaged in the missionary activity that in many respects was to provide him with his life's work. In fact, it might be said that Fr. LaFarge's involvement with the predominantly black population of rural St. Mary's County gave him his vocation within the vocation: the work that he referred to as his Negro Apostolate. As part of this work, Fr. LaFarge helped to organize the Cardinal Gibbons Institute, in Ridge, as well as the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
Fr. LaFarge went to New York City in 1926, there to work as an editor for the Jesuit magazine America. He became the magazine's Executive Editor in 1942, and in 1944 became Editor-in-Chief, a position he held until 1948.He was to continue as a Senior Editor until his death.
Although Fr. LaFarge's concern with social justice manifested itself as early as the time of his missionary work in Southern Maryland, it did not come to full expression until the difficult times of the 1930s. During that time, Fr. LaFarge, as well as a number of other Catholic social theorists and theologians, attempted to respond to the period's protracted social crises by formulating a kind of "third way" between unrestrained free enterprise on the one hand, and the total social mobilization of fascism, Nazism, and Soviet Communism on the other. This would remain a central concern of Fr. LaFarge's for all of his life, and it is in the context of this specifically Catholic social doctrine that Fr. LaFarge's commitment to a more equitable social order is best understood.
Accordingly, from the 1930s on, Fr. LaFarge involved himself in the founding of interracial organizations and groups, chief of which was the catholic Interracial Council, headquartered in New York City. From its inception and up until 1962, this latter group was headed by George K.Hunton, much of whose correspondence and memoranda are included in this collection. By the 1950s, the Catholic Interracial Council expanded to include a number of affiliated branches in various cities across the United states, as well as activities as diverse as the publication of a book on african music, and the organization of the Asia-Africa-Pacific News service, a press service featuring news from non-Western countries.
Consistent with his work with interracial groups was Fr. LaFarge's work with groups promoting better interfaith relations, for which he would receive a World Brotherhood Award.
As one perhaps might expect of the son of a well-known artist, Fr.LaFarge maintained a lifelong interest in art, architecture, and music,particularly in their liturgical uses. In connection with that interest,Fr. LaFarge was a member of the Century Club, as well as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Fr. LaFarge was most widely known as a writer, however. Besides his journalistic work for America, he published frequently in The Saturday Review, as well as the European journals Stimmen der Zeit, Etudes, and Civilta Cattolica. In addition, he was the author of the books No postponement (1950), The Catholic Viewpoint on Race Relations (1956), and reflections on Growing Old (1963). His autobiography, The Manner is Ordinary (1953), was a critical and popular success.
A short few months after his participation in the Civil Rights Marchon Washington, and only three days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Fr. LaFarge died on November 25, 1963.
The Rev. John LaFarge, SJ Papers consists of both the First and Second accessions of Fr. LaFarge's Papers. It should be noted that Boxes 1-50comprise the First Accession, while Boxes 51-68 comprise the Second accession. In order to help distinguish the two Accessions at the Series level, the parenthesized Roman Numerals I or II follow the title of each series. Both accessions contain a large collection of correspondence,typescripts, manuscripts, clippings, and others items covering the entire range of Fr. LaFarge's life and activities.
The collection has been organized into several series to facilitate access to specific areas. However, only the Individual Correspondence and photographs Series consist of specific types of materials; the remaining series may combine correspondence, documents, clippings, and other materials as well.
A subject index appears at the end of the finding aid to help in the location of materials. This index is not exhaustive, and should be used only as a guide.
A note on terminology: In the interest of consistency in indexing and organization, the term Negro has been used to refer to black Americans. In addition, this is in keeping with the terminology used by Fr. Lafarge himself.
BULK DATES: 1925 - 1963
SPAN DATES: 1844 - 1984
EXTENT: 48 l.f. 68 boxes