Back to top

Carty, Rev. Denzil A. (1904–1975)

  • Cite
  • Share
  • Correct
  • Print
Rev. Denzil A. Carty

Rev. Denzil A. Carty, ca. 1950s. Used courtesy of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center.

Rev. Denzil Angus Carty was an Episcopal priest and civil rights leader who fought against discrimination in Minnesota—particularly in the City of St. Paul. He was the rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul for twenty-five years, from 1950 until his retirement in June 1975.

Carty stated that his lifelong work in human rights was simply part of his Christian duty. The only thing worth doing, he contended, was helping people.

Carty was born on March 30, 1904, in St. John’s Antigua, British West Indies. He received a bachelor of science degree from the City College of New York and a bachelor of divinity degree from General Theological Seminary in New York, where he later received an honorary doctor of sacred theology degree. He graduated from the Episcopal seminary in 1934 and worked in New York parishes at All Souls, St. Philip’s, and St. Luke’s churches.

Carty served as a chaplain in the United States Army during World War II, from 1944 to 1946. He earned a master of arts degree in psychology from Wayne State University in Detroit. He was then a principal at Weber Elementary School in Baldwin, Michigan, prior to moving to Minnesota to become the priest at St. Philip’s.

During his long career in Minnesota, Carty headed several organizations and provided leadership on many boards. He was one of the founders of the Christian Social Relations Department in the Minnesota Episcopal diocese and served as vice chair and director of the department. Carty was president of the Minnesota branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); director of the St. Paul Urban Coalition; director of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity; president of the St. Paul Urban League; and president of the Minnesota Council for Civil and Human Rights. He also served as chaplain of the American Legion and on the boards of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and the Children’s Home Society.

As an outspoken advocate for equality, Carty fought against discrimination in housing, education, and employment. In 1961, he lobbied the Minnesota legislature for passage of the Minnesota Fair Housing Act—a law that barred racial and religious discrimination in the sale, rental, and lease of housing. He led the effort to establish a state Fair Employment Practices Commission and fought to desegregate St. Paul public schools.

As director of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity, Carty sought to create training schools for black and white civil rights leaders aimed at fighting white racism. He also assisted in negotiating an agreement between St. Paul construction trade unions and employers to increase the number of blacks in construction jobs in the 1970s.

In 1964, Carty led a “prayer intercession” of about 300 people at the Minnesota State Capitol to garner support for the federal civil rights bill that was being debated by the US Senate. Carty encouraged the audience to write letters to their senators urging them to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The landmark legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin in voting, public schools, employment, and public accommodations.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Carty supported urban renewal in the Summit-University area of St. Paul after the construction of Interstate 94 destroyed the thriving black community in the Rondo neighborhood. Carty encouraged African Americans to move from their homes, and many houses were condemned with the promise that better housing would replace it.

The construction of I-94 destroyed black-owned homes and businesses, and subsequent urban renewal plans failed to rebuild the community. In 1974, under one plan, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church built St. Philip’s Gardens, a low-to-moderate income apartment complex. Carty later stated that he regretted his support of urban renewal because it scattered residents and divided the black community. The government, moreover, did not follow through on promises to build better housing.

Carty passed away on August 24, 1975. Carty Park in St. Paul’s Summit-University neighborhood is named after him. In 2007, Episcopal Homes opened Carty Heights, an affordable senior apartment building named in his honor.

  • Cite
  • Share
  • Correct
  • Print
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

African American Registry.

“At State Capitol Rotunda Meeting, Prayers Offered for Civil Rights Bill.” Minneapolis Star, April 29, 1964.

“Colleagues Eulogize Carty as Priest Who Gave Much.” Minneapolis Star, August 30, 1975.

Howe, Dick. “Episcopal Minister is Active as State Civil Rights Lobbyist.” Minneapolis Tribune, June 12, 1961.

“More Building Jobs Due for Minorities.” Minneapolis Star, July 31, 1970.

Newsletter of the Minnesota Chapter of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity, May 1969. Denzil A. Carty papers, 1931–1988 (P1725, Box 1). Manuscripts collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

“Rev. Carty of St. Paul Buried.” Minneapolis Tribune, August 30, 1975.

Shoop, Jim. “St. Paul Rights Group Praises School Plan.” Minneapolis Star, May 21, 1966.

Sullwold, Robert. “Retired Clergyman Regrets Renewal Stand.” Minneapolis Tribune, June 16, 1975.

“Thursday Services Planned for the Rev. Denzil Carty.” Minneapolis Star, August 26, 1975.

Worrall, Jean. “Housing Equality is Urged.” Minneapolis Tribune, January 14, 1958.

“Your Weekend: Summit-University.” Minneapolis Tribune, June 20, 1976.

Related Images

Rev. Denzil A. Carty
Rev. Denzil A. Carty
Rev. Denzil A. Carty
Rev. Denzil A. Carty

Turning Point

Rev. Carty lobbies the Minnesota legislature to pass the Minnesota Fair Housing Act in 1961.



Denzil Carty is born in St. John’s Antigua, British West Indies.


Carty graduates from an Episcopal seminary.


Carty begins two years of service in the United States Army during World War II as a chaplain and captain.


Carty becomes rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul.


Carty lobbies the Minnesota legislature for passage of the Minnesota Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination.


As part of a delegation of fifty-eight Minnesotans, Carty attends the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC.


Carty leads a mass prayer at the Minnesota State Capitol for passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Carty retires from St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, where he had been a priest for twenty-five years.


A few months after his retirement, Carty dies.