In 1909, seven Josephites worked together to found The Knights of St. Peter Claver. Nowadays, this organization is the largest African-American Catholic group in the United States. The Knights worked with the NAACP during the civil rights movement as well as the National Urban League.
St. Peter Claver was born in Spain in 1581 and served the poor in Colombia and the West Indies. The mission of the Josephite leaders was to serve Catholic African-Americans. However, during that time, they were concerned that the church would lose its black members to other organizations–such as the Elks and the Masons, who had black lodges– if they did not form their own fraternal Catholic organization. Therefore, they formed their own organization. During this time they were not active in the fight to desegregate the Catholic Church.
By 1910, several branches of the Knights of Peter Claver were formed in Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi. Around the late 1930s, the Knights began to oppose segregation; Marcellus Dorsey was expelled from the order when he wrote articles criticizing the racial segregation in the Church. The order created a committee to support black priests and refused to send black priests to Africa. They believed black priests were needed in the United States to support the black Catholic community.