In the early 19th century, some African Americans in Cincinnati worshiped at the white Methodist Episcopal churches but were treated in a discriminatory manner. Following one camp-meeting, African Americans Rev. James King and Rev. Phillip Brodie decided they could no longer tolerate the prejudicial treatment they had received. In 1824, soon after hearing of the new A.M.E. church, they founded Cincinnati’s A.M.E. congregation
As the small group grew, it relocated to several different buildings near the African American district of 6th and Broadway. Some of the early churches were called "Little Red Church on the Green," "Old Lime House," "Bethel Creek," and "Allen Chapel," named after A.M.E. founder, Rev. Richard Allen.
Cincinnati History Library and Archives
Cincinnati Museum Center
Continued growth and increasing vandalism at Allen Chapel forced the congregation to seek yet another location. In 1870, the congregation bought the former Bene Israel Synagogue at 538 Broadway. The larger, more secure synagogue with its barred windows and iron fence seemed like the perfect choice for them. The building also had symbolic connections to the Israelites who had once been slaves but were set free. The congregation named their new home Allen Temple. The first years there were financially difficult due to the money owed to the Bene Israel congregation and to damages caused by a fire in 1874. Several charity groups were formed to help ease these financial burdens. After satisfying the debts of the congregation, these groups formed the basis for subsequent social and welfare work.
Allen Temple had many prominent Cincinnatians as members. One of these members, Benjamin Arnett, was active in both civic and religious life of the African American community in the late nineteenth century. Arnett served as a pastor and deacon in Ohio and Cincinnati before becoming a bishop of the A.M.E. church in 1888. He was also a promoter of Wilberforce College, an African American college near Xenia, Ohio. 1886-1887 he was a member of Ohio’s House of Representatives, where he worked to repeal Ohio’s “Black Laws” which deeply curtailed the freedom of African Americans. Allen also documented the history of the A.M.E. Church nationally and in Ohio.
Allen Temple began the 20th century with 800 members and continued
to thrive. William McClain was one
of the prominent members of the congregation. However, as the African American community began to migrate from the downtown area, the congregation made several attempts to sell their building and move to a new location. Finally, in 1979, the Allen Temple congregation moved to Roselawn Baptist Church on Reading Road. The old synagogue was demolished, and the property was sold to Procter and Gamble. In 1998, Allen Temple bought Swifton Commons Mall in Bond Hill and made plans to build a church center there. The congregation began to worship at this new location, 7030 Reading Road, in 2000.
To learn more about Allen Temple A.M.E. Church,
consult the following resources:
Allen Temple website http://allentemple.org Allen Temple: Formerly the Bene
Israel Synagogue, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1852-1979 By Alan I. Marcus
General f287.8 M322
This history of Allen Temple concentrates on the building that served
as both Bene Israel Synagogue and Allen Temple. It also includes
a history of the Bene Israel congregation. View catalog record
Allen Temple: The
African Methodist Episcopal Church By Alan I. Marcus, Gale E. Peterson, Daniel Hurley
Pamphlets q287.8 C574
This is an abbreviated version of Allen Temple: Formerly the Bene
Israel Synagogue, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1852-1979. View catalog record
Centennial Guide R.B. q287.8 A431
In addition to a detailed history of the congregation, a list of pastors,
and photos of various church groups, the Centennial Guide
includes a history of early African American settlers in the Cincinnati
area. View catalog record
Souvenir Program for the Mortgage Burning of
Allen Temple A.M.E.
Pamphlets f287.8 A431s
10, 1945 Allen Temple held a mortgage burning celebration. This publication
documents the events held and the funds raised to pay off the debt.
It also includes photographs of the congregation. View catalog record
The Allen Temple Story (1824-1953): One Hundred
Twenty-Ninth Anniversary of Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal
Pamphlets f287.8 A431a
The church held a week-long celebration in 1953 to honor its 129th
anniversary. This booklet includes a history of the church, photographs,
and lists of pastors, trustees and board members. View catalog record
Centennial Pamphlets f287.8 A431c 1970
This publication documents the celebration of Cincinnati’s African
Methodist Episcopal Church's 100th anniversary in the Allen Temple. View catalog record
Allen Temple AME Church Collection Photo SC#40
This collection contains photographs, slides and negatives of the
renovation of Allen Temple in the 1970s. View catalog record
A. McClain Papers, 1927-1989
This collection of Judge William McClain's papers includes a few items
about Allen Temple A.M.E. Church. For More information, a detailed
register for this collection is available in the library. View catalog recordRequest slip
Sources Used for Historical Sketch:
Arnett, Benjamin William. Proceedings of
the Semi-Centenary Celebration of the African Methodist Episcopal
Church of Cincinnati at the Allen Temple, February 8th, 9th and
10th, 1874. R. B. 287.8 A748. Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
Allen Temple: Formerly the Bene Israel Synagogue,
Cincinnati, Ohio, 1852-1979. General
f287.8 M322. Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati
“Church Buys Bond Hill Mall,” Cincinnati
Enquirer, July 23, 1998, page B3.
“Allen Temple to Build Impressive New
Church at Swifton: Mall Evolves as Community Focus,” Cincinnati
Enquirer, April 6, 2000, page D1.
“Allen Temple Church Sold: Congregation
is Building $9M Center,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July
26, 2000, page B3.
Augman, William Joseph, The Black Church in America : An Exploration in Cincinnati
Ann Arbor, Mich. : University Microfilms, 1986, c1984. (Publication No. 287.87 A921.)