Black History Month, Local

Former Atlanta Student Recalls Catholic Church’s Role In Civil Rights

First Communion ceremony that was held in the old church on the first floor of the old school building ( the original building) now known as the Katharine Drexel Community Center.
First Communion ceremony that was held in the old church on the first floor of the old school building ( the original building) now known as the Katharine Drexel Community Center.
Credit Sandra Criddell

The century-old, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church sits in the heart of the Sweet Auburn Historic District in downtown Atlanta was swept up in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Many marches and protests during that time took place outside its front doors.

The church, which is considered the mother church for African American Catholics in the metro area, also had an elementary and middle school on the church property.

Sandra Criddell is a 65-year-long member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. (Courtesy of Sandra Criddell)

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church member Sandra Criddell attended Our Lady of Lourdes’ elementary and middle school.

When Criddell was in High School she attended Drexel Catholic High School which was built for Black high school students during the segregated south.

Criddell recalled during her conversation with the host of WABE’s “Morning Edition,” Lisa Rayam, how the nuns during the civil rights era were determined to teach the importance of having a voice in social reform.