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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Johnston Square in Baltimore, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

St. Frances Academy

 
 
St. Frances Academy Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 12, 2017
1. St. Frances Academy Marker
Inscription.  More than thirty years before the Civil War, when blacks and women were generally viewed as property, Father James Joubert and Elizabeth Lange founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence—a religious order of black women dedicated to educating the children of their race. This was the first order of black nuns anywhere in the world. The women began their novitiate in 1828; that the same year, they established St. Frances Academy, now the oldest existing school for blacks in Maryland.

Father Joubert, a French Sulpician priest, had come to Baltimore from Haiti, and soon became involved in black religious education at St. Mary’s Seminary. Elizabeth Lange, an educated young black woman, had also fled the turmoil in Haiti and settled in Baltimore, in the Catholic, French-speaking area of present-day Seton Hill.

Distressed by the lack of educational opportunities for blacks, Elizabeth Lange conducted a school in her home for nearly ten years, assisted by another Caribbean refugee, Marie Magdeleine Balas. Lack of funds finally forced the school to close.

Shortly thereafter, Father Joubert proposed that a new school be established

St. Frances Academy image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 12, 2017
2. St. Frances Academy
The marker is to the right of the front door.
Click or scan to see
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and made secure by the creation of a black female teaching order. His daring proposal was eagerly accepted by the two women, and, under his spiritual direction, a small community of black women was organized in June, 1828. In 1829, the women took their vows in the chapel of St. Mary’s Seminary.

Despite financial difficulties and sporadic violence from a hostile community the convent and school survived, assisted in turn by the Sulpicians, Redemptorists, Jesuits and Josephites.

In 1870 the convent and school moved to this building, designed by George Frederick, architect of Baltimore City Hall.

(Inscriptions under the two photos on the left)
Elizabeth Lange; Father Joubert
 
Erected by First Maryland Foundation, Sponsor; Oblate Sisters of Providence, Sponsor; William Donald Schaefer, Mayor.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansCharity & Public WorkEducation. A significant historical month for this entry is June 1828.
 
Location. 39° 18.155′ N, 76° 36.529′ W. Marker is in Johnston Square in Baltimore, Maryland. Marker is on East Chase Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 501 East Chase Street, Baltimore MD 21202, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Old East Baltimore (approx. 0.2 miles away); Gertrude Stein

St. Frances Academy image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 12, 2017
3. St. Frances Academy
The cornerstone-St. Frances Church and Convent
(approx. 0.2 miles away); Green Mount Cemetery (approx. 0.3 miles away); William H. Welch House (approx. 0.3 miles away); Samuel Shoemaker House (approx. 0.3 miles away); St. Ignatius Church (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Belvedere (approx. 0.4 miles away); Acquiring Fame: Mount Vernon Celebrities (approx. 0.4 miles away).
 
St. Frances Academy-Founded in 1828 image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 12, 2017
4. St. Frances Academy-Founded in 1828
Sign at the entrance to the property.
St. Frances Academy Founded in 1828 image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 12, 2017
5. St. Frances Academy Founded in 1828
Drs. Camille & Bill Cosby Community Center building
St. Frances Academy-Mural on wall next to the Cosby Building image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 12, 2017
6. St. Frances Academy-Mural on wall next to the Cosby Building
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 17, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 16, 2017, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 142 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on April 16, 2017, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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