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    Posted February 24, 2013 by
    Houston, Texas
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    St. Benedict's Home for Colored Children

    In 1883 a mission was founded in Manhattan as the St. Benedict the Moor church to address the spiritual needs of the African-American population. It had increased after the Civil War as many former slave families moved north to escape the impoverished conditions of the South. In 1891 the Home for Colored Children, which had started first in Manhattan, opened in Rye, New York. Despite its name, not all children were African-American, at least, not in the 1930s. They were a mix of so-called racial groups. The Home was also referred to as an “orphanage” but not all of the children were orphans. The Great Depression exacerbated difficult economic conditions of the community. Families were unable to stay together so the Home was where children could get a good education, shelter, and food.

    St. Benedict’s Home for Colored Children helped my mother and her family survive the Great Depression in Harlem. She was very young when her father died. My maternal grandmother then had 5 children to raise. When she became ill she was unable to keep the family together. The four older children were sent to boarding schools. My mother was 7 years old and her sister was 10 when they arrived at St. Benedict’s. Her brothers were sent elsewhere and not even to the same school. The family was split up.

    It is not clear why, but the census records listed my mother and her sister as “negro.” They lived at St. Benedict’s home from 1929 through 1933. In 1933 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a program, designed to bring families back together. My mother, her sisters, and her brothers were reunited -- a family once again. My mother learned a lot despite the strict hands of the nuns. She passed on her love of words and poetry to her daughters. My aunts and uncles went to college and had fine careers. They raised families that continue to flourish. St. Benedict’s legacy lives on because I am here with a strong desire to write my family’s story.

    1) http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mcnamarasblog/2010/10/new-york-city’s-first-african-american-parish.html
    2) St. Benedict’s Home Blessed, New York Times
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