The debate over who the first African-American priest of the Catholic Church has raged on for years, but some historians point to Father Charles Uncles of Baltimore. On Dec. 19, 1891, he was ordained as a priest in the United States.
Charles Randolph Uncles was born Nov. 8, 1859 in East Baltimore. This was five years after Father James Healy, considered by some as the first Catholic priest of African descent to work in the United States, who was ordained in Paris in 1854. However, Father Healy never considered himself as Black. Some historians of the denomination also point to Father Augustus Tolton, who is recognized as the first priest of the church of African slave descent, born in 1854 and ordained in Paris in 1866.
From 1891 onward, Father Uncles, who was reportedly called “Daddy” Uncles, taught Latin, Greek, and English at Epiphany College in Walbrook, West Baltimore, and in New Windsor, New York. Father Uncles was also a founding member of the St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart in Baltimore, which was developed to minister and assist the Black church community in the city.
While living at Epiphany College, Father Uncles fell ill in July 1933, passing at the age of 73.