Father Augustus Tolton
1854 – 1897
Father Augustus Tolton, baptized Augustine Tolton, and was the first Roman Catholic priest in the United States publicly known to be black. A former slave who was baptized and reared Catholic, Tolton studied formally in Rome and was ordained in 1886.
Tolton was ordained Easter Vigil 1886 at the Roman Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. He was assigned to the diocese of Alton (now Springfield) and first ministered to his home parish in Quincy, Illinois. Tolton eventually was sent to Chicago, where he ran development and construction of St. Monica's Catholic Church as a black national parish church. The church was never completed beyond the first level, and Fr. Tolton incurred an untimely death on July 9, 1897.
Where does one start the story of a man’s life? Many people are interested in genealogy and these people trace their personal life-stories back many generations. In some cases, it is difficult to trace the ancestry of American slaves of the 19th century, as they were often bought and sold at auctions, oftentimes re-sold, and there were families broken up with no one keeping accurate records.
Below, you can read a breakdown of Fr. Tolton’s biography. For a complete, printable PDF, click here.
- Slave Origins
- The Family and Pre-Civil War Times
- The Family’s Escape
- The Struggle for Acceptance
- The Search for a Seminary
- On, to Rome
- Seminarian Augustus Tolton
- Final Approaches to the Altar
- Augustus Tolton, Ordained Priest
- The Journey Back Home
- The Negro Apostolate in Quincy
- Father Tolton’s Suffering
- Father Tolton’s Ministry in Chicago
- The Death of Father Tolton