In 1787 African Americans at St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia banded together to form the Free African Society (FAS). This mutual aid society provided assistance in times of need and a safe space for open discussion. It also provided the impetus for African American denominations to break off on their own, away from the white dominated churches that openly treated them with disrespect and discrimination.
Richard Allen, a minister and former slave, led a group within the FAS that desired to have their own church but still stay within the Methodist faith without interference from the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1794 they formed Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Philadelphia with Allen as its first pastor. Allen then took the Methodist Episcopal Church to court in 1807 and 1815 and won autonomy for the new A.M.E. church. The church maintained the structure and tenants of the Methodist Episcopal Church, but due to the A.M.E. church being formed in protest of discrimination it is only natural that the church maintained a strong dedication to racial equality.
Word soon spread about this new church and A.M.E. congregations began to appear throughout the northeast and Midwest. By the 1850s A.M.E. churches could be found across the country, even in the deep south and in the west in California. Today the A.M.E. Church’s reach is international and has churches in thirty-nine countries.
To learn more about the African Methodist Episcopal Church, consult the
Methodist Episcopal Church Records, 1822-1839
This collection includes three volumes on African Americans in Cincinnati’s Methodist Episcopal Churches.
Vol. 6: Account Book, 1837-39. This volume lists amounts paid, preachers, sextons, names of
members, leaders, and some notes on their status.
Vol. 11: Church Book, Oct. 1822-1828. Lists members of church, with colored members indicated.
Vol. 14: Records Book, July 7, 1832-1833. Volume contains membership lists. Request slip
The Black Church in America : An Exploration in Cincinnati
By William Joseph Augman
Thesis 287.87 A921
Augman’s thesis deals with the creation and growth of African American churches in America with a focus on Cincinnati. A large portion of the book is on the A.M.E. church in Cincinnati. View catalog recordRequest slip
The Colored Man in the Methodist Episcopal Church
By L. M. Hagood
General 287.6 H145
Written in 1890, this book gives a nice overview of the history of the African Americans in the Methodist Church and of the creation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. View catalog recordRequest slip
Arnett, Benjamin William, Proceedings of the semi-centenary celebration of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Cincinnati, held in Allen Temple, February 8th, 9th, and 10th, 1874. With an account of the rise and progress of the colored schools; also a list of the charitable and benevolent societies of the city, edited by Rev. B.W. Arnett, Cincinnati, H. Watkin, 1874, R.B. 287.8 A748, Cincinnati History Library and Archives. Cincinnati Museum Center.