St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans is in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1841 under the episcopacy of Bishop Antoine Blanc. Established by free people of color, who also bought pews for slaves, this is the oldest African-American Catholic parish in the nation. It was one of the first 26 sites designated on the state's Louisiana African American Heritage Trail. The property on which St. Augustine stands was once part of the Claude Tremé plantation. It is now one of two Catholic parishes in the Faubourg Tremé. The church is located on Saint Claude Avenue at Governor Nicholls Street, a block from North Rampart Street and the French Quarter. It was designed by the French architect J.N.B. de Pouilly, who worked on the expansion and renovation of the more famous St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square.
When free people of color organized in the 1830s and received permission from Bishop Antoine Blanc to build a church, the Ursuline Sisters donated the property, on the condition that the church be named St. Augustine, after one of their patron saints, Augustine of Hippo. The church was dedicated on October 9, 1842. At a time when there were pew fees, free people of color paid for extra pews so that enslaved blacks could also attend.
"A few months before the October 9, 1842 dedication of St. Augustine Church, the people of color began to purchase pews for their families to sit. Upon hearing of this, white people in the area started a campaign to buy more pews than the colored folks. Thus, The War of the Pews began and was ultimately won by the free people of color who bought three pews to every one purchased by the whites. In an unprecedented social, political and religious move, the colored members also bought all the pews of both side aisles. They gave those pews to the slaves as their exclusive place of worship, a first in the history of slavery in the United States. This mix of the pews resulted in the most integrated congregation in the entire country: one large row of free people of color, one large row of whites with a smattering of ethnics, and two outer aisles of slaves."