Remembering the Rich History of the Black Church

An African American congregation in Washington. Artist unknown. Wood Engraving, Illustrated London News, November 18, 1876 (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

The Black Church has been the center of African American life since the earliest congregations were established in the 1700s. Its role has always extended beyond worship and fellowship to encompass education, business, social action and benevolent support.

During Black History Month, the L.A. Sentinel Religion section will highlight historical facts about some of the major denominations, ministries and movements in the African American community.

Beginnings of U.S. Black Congregations

  • George Liele, a former slave, organized a Baptist fellowship in Savannah, Georgia in 1777 .
  • In 1790, slaves Peter Durrett and his wife founded First African Church (now known as First African Baptist Church) in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Richard Allen built Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1794. He went on to found and incorporate the worldwide AME Church in 1816.
  • Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, organized the first successful Catholic sisterhood for women of African descent in Baltimore in 1829.
  • The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was officially formed in New York City in 1831, however its origin can be traced to 1800 when the denomination built its first church.
  • A coalition of black Methodist ministers established the Colored Methodist Church (now the Christian Methodist Church) in Jackson, Tennessee in 1870.
  • In 1907, Charles Harrison Mason formed the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Today, COGIC is the largest African American denomination in the world.
  • Charles Price Jones founded the Church of Christ (Holiness) USA in 1915.
  • The National Baptist Convention of American was established in 1915.
  • The Nation of Islam was founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad in Detroit, Michigan in 1930.

Source: LA Sentinel