The Rich History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

A look at the institution's importance to Black history.

The AME Church - The rich history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is powerful and uncompromising. Those who fear the organization and the empowerment of Black people may perceive it as dangerous. The June 17 attack on Emanuel AME church was in response to that fear. But undoubtedly, the church?s leaders and followers will recover, continuing to rise in power and strength with the same spirit as the AME church?s founders. Take a look as BET.com talks about the institution's importance to Black history. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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The AME Church - The rich history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is powerful and uncompromising. Those who fear the organization and the empowerment of Black people may perceive it as dangerous. The June 17 attack on Emanuel AME church was in response to that fear. But undoubtedly, the church’s leaders and followers will recover, continuing to rise in power and strength with the same spirit as the AME church’s founders. Take a look as BET.com talks about the institution's importance to Black history. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Richard Allen and the Black Episcopal Church - The African Methodist Episcopal Church dates back to 1787, when Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, both formerly enslaved in Delaware, formed the Free African Society in Philadelphia. Fed up with segregation in their Methodist Episcopal Church that prevented Black worshippers from attending service with whites, the prominent religious leaders created a safe and supportive space for Philadelphia?s free Black population. Throughout the organization?s existence, it faced hatred and resistance from whites. W.E.B. Du Bois would later call the Free African Society "the first wavering step of a people toward organized social life."  (Photo: Kean Collection/Getty Images)

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Richard Allen and the Black Episcopal Church - The African Methodist Episcopal Church dates back to 1787, when Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, both formerly enslaved in Delaware, formed the Free African Society in Philadelphia. Fed up with segregation in their Methodist Episcopal Church that prevented Black worshippers from attending service with whites, the prominent religious leaders created a safe and supportive space for Philadelphia’s free Black population. Throughout the organization’s existence, it faced hatred and resistance from whites. W.E.B. Du Bois would later call the Free African Society "the first wavering step of a people toward organized social life."  (Photo: Kean Collection/Getty Images)

Richard Allen and the Black Episcopal Church - In 1794, Richard Allen, along with several other Black Methodists, moved on to found the Bethel Church, a Black Episcopal Church. The church basement became a stop on the "Underground Railroad," hiding and aiding those who were escaping slavery. (Photo: Kean Collection/Getty Images)

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Richard Allen and the Black Episcopal Church - In 1794, Richard Allen, along with several other Black Methodists, moved on to found the Bethel Church, a Black Episcopal Church. The church basement became a stop on the "Underground Railroad," hiding and aiding those who were escaping slavery. (Photo: Kean Collection/Getty Images)

The First African Methodist Episcopal Church - After Allen became ordained in the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church, he founded the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in 1816. It was the first national Black church in the United States. Allen was the church?s first bishop. One of Allen?s collaborators in the founding of the church was Rev. Morris Brown, who traveled to Philadelphia from Charleston, S.C. (Photo: MPI/Getty Images)

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The First African Methodist Episcopal Church - After Allen became ordained in the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church, he founded the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in 1816. It was the first national Black church in the United States. Allen was the church’s first bishop. One of Allen’s collaborators in the founding of the church was Rev. Morris Brown, who traveled to Philadelphia from Charleston, S.C. (Photo: MPI/Getty Images)

The African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston - In 1816, Rev. Morris Brown was still a member of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal Church, which was predominantly white and racially segregated. In protest over discrimination and a dispute over a burial ground, Brown left the church to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, which was later named Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the first A.M.E. church in the South. (Photo: Public Domain)

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The African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston - In 1816, Rev. Morris Brown was still a member of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal Church, which was predominantly white and racially segregated. In protest over discrimination and a dispute over a burial ground, Brown left the church to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, which was later named Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the first A.M.E. church in the South. (Photo: Public Domain)

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Mass Movement for Black Worship - Joining the church?s founding members, including Denmark Vesey, thousands of Black people from white churches throughout the city followed Rev. Brown to the new church, which was affiliated with Richard Allen?s church in Philadelphia. Although white people constantly monitored the church, disrupted services and arrested its members, the launch of A.M.E. churches marked the beginning of a movement to empower Black people to worship on their own terms. (Photo: Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Corbis)

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Mass Movement for Black Worship - Joining the church’s founding members, including Denmark Vesey, thousands of Black people from white churches throughout the city followed Rev. Brown to the new church, which was affiliated with Richard Allen’s church in Philadelphia. Although white people constantly monitored the church, disrupted services and arrested its members, the launch of A.M.E. churches marked the beginning of a movement to empower Black people to worship on their own terms. (Photo: Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Corbis)

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Denmark Vesey’s Plan for Rebellion - Denmark Vesey, who was formerly enslaved in Charleston, was one of the founding members of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church. He held weekly church meetings in his home, preaching with an urgency for freedom and rebellion to end slavery. So he planned a revolt that would rock Charleston’s white population at its core. Along with other members of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, in June 1822, Vesey intended to kill white people throughout the city, free those who were enslaved, set fire to the city, and escape to Haiti. However, George Wilson, an enslaved man who was also a member of the A.M.E. Church, leaked the plan to city officials. The plot was foiled before the rebels were able to begin. (Photo: Public Domain)

Foiled Plot Burns the Church - Vesey and other leaders of the rebellion were captured on June 22, 1822. Following a secret trial, and after the men refused to give up information about their followers, Vesey and five others were hanged on July 2, 1822. Although no white people were ever harmed, by August 1822, 35 accused rebels had been executed. In further retribution, the Emanuel A.M.E. Church was burned to the ground.(Photo: Lowell Georgia/Corbis)

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Foiled Plot Burns the Church - Vesey and other leaders of the rebellion were captured on June 22, 1822. Following a secret trial, and after the men refused to give up information about their followers, Vesey and five others were hanged on July 2, 1822. Although no white people were ever harmed, by August 1822, 35 accused rebels had been executed. In further retribution, the Emanuel A.M.E. Church was burned to the ground.(Photo: Lowell Georgia/Corbis)

Outlawing Worship - Following the foiled Vesey rebellion, the Emanuel A.M.E. Church was rebuilt and resumed services. But to limit the potential for similar revolts and resistance to white domination, the South Carolina state legislature outlawed Black church services in 1834. The A.M.E. Church was forced to go underground until 1865, which marked the end of the Civil War. It was at that time that the name Emanuel was adopted. (Photo: Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images)

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Outlawing Worship - Following the foiled Vesey rebellion, the Emanuel A.M.E. Church was rebuilt and resumed services. But to limit the potential for similar revolts and resistance to white domination, the South Carolina state legislature outlawed Black church services in 1834. The A.M.E. Church was forced to go underground until 1865, which marked the end of the Civil War. It was at that time that the name Emanuel was adopted. (Photo: Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images)

Reconstructing Freedom and Resistance - Following the Civil War, during the era of Reconstruction, A.M.E. Churches were opened throughout the South, continuing to be safe spaces for Black people to worship, organize, embrace freedom and rise to prominence. Many social, political and religious leaders in Black communities emerged from A.M.E. Churches. The Emanuel A.M.E. Church was no exception. Due to their messages of Black power and resistance, white authorities commonly saw the A.M.E. Church as a threat.  (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Reconstructing Freedom and Resistance - Following the Civil War, during the era of Reconstruction, A.M.E. Churches were opened throughout the South, continuing to be safe spaces for Black people to worship, organize, embrace freedom and rise to prominence. Many social, political and religious leaders in Black communities emerged from A.M.E. Churches. The Emanuel A.M.E. Church was no exception. Due to their messages of Black power and resistance, white authorities commonly saw the A.M.E. Church as a threat. (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Maintaining a Historical Legacy - The present-day building of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church was completed in 1891. It stands as a monument to Black resistance, from the 19th century through the civil rights movement and into present day. The church has welcomed many prominent civil rights leaders, including Booker T. Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In support of Charleston?s striking hospital workers in 1969, Coretta Scott King led demonstrators in a march from the church through the streets of Charleston. (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

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Maintaining a Historical Legacy - The present-day building of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church was completed in 1891. It stands as a monument to Black resistance, from the 19th century through the civil rights movement and into present day. The church has welcomed many prominent civil rights leaders, including Booker T. Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In support of Charleston’s striking hospital workers in 1969, Coretta Scott King led demonstrators in a march from the church through the streets of Charleston. (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)