African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church Collection

Finding Aid File: 


BC.0004

Summary Information

Repository
Brooklyn Public Library - Brooklyn Collection
Title
African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church Collection
ID
BC.0004
Date [inclusive]
1849 - 1857
Extent
0.4 Linear feet 1 document box
Location note
Brooklyn Collection, Map Room, Shelf 1.1
Language
English
Mixed materials [Box]
1
Abstract
5 series, each arranged in chronological order, as follows. Series 1: Mortgages, 1849 - 1854 Series 2: Receipts & Financial Statements, 1856 - 1857 Series 3: Miscellaneous Legal Documents, 1849 - 1857 Series 4: Internal Church Documents, 1851 - 1855 Series 5: Correspondence, 1854

Preferred Citation note

This collection should be cited as the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church Collection, Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.

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Biographical/Historical note

A small but rich collection of papers documenting the financial and administrative affairs of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church, one of Brooklyn’s oldest African American congregations, organized between 1827 and 1835. The A.M.E. Zion Church of Williamsburgh was located on North Second Street near Union Avenue, one of the borough’s first neighborhoods inhabited in sizeable numbers by African Americans freed when New York State abolished slavery in 1827. Williamsburgh was a separate village, then a city, until it consolidated with Brooklyn in 1854.

The A.M.E. Zion Churches were a nationwide league of congregations founded in New York in 1820 by and for the African American religious community. Like the related, but separate, A.M.E. Churches, they were established and patronized by black Methodists who withdrew from the white-dominated Methodist churches as a reaction to the racism of the majority white Methodist community and to its reticence to take an organized stand against slavery as a religious issue. Members of the A.M.E. Zion Churches were actively involved in abolition work and were widely rumored to have used some of their church locations as covert Underground Railroad stations. The A.M.E. Zion Churches were progressive in other ways as well: in 1891, the A.M.E. Zion Church became one of the first major denominations to ordain women. Noted members of the nationwide A.M.E. Zion Churches included Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Jermain Loguen, and Frederick Douglass.

In 1885, Brooklyn’s original A.M.E. Zion Church merged with a nearby congregation, the First A.M.E. Zion Church at Tompkins Avenue at McDonough Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant and relocated to its property. In March 1980, more than a hundred years after the A.M.E. Zion Church of Williamsburgh defaulted on its lease and lost its house of worship, the First A.M.E. Zion Church successfully paid off its final $54,000 mortgage payment, after which church officials burnt the mortgage documents in celebration.

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Scope and Contents note

Materials in this collection include mortgages, receipts & financial statements, miscellaneous legal documents, internal church documents, and correspondence. Most of the materials concern the Church’s financial instability and reflect debts owed by the church and transfers of its property. The materials document African American church history in Brooklyn and offer evidence of early financial and business dealings within Brooklyn’s free African American community. The collection contains many autograph documents signed by church officials and other legal authorities. Individuals whose names and/or autographs figure in this collection include: Oliver Fields, Peter Lee, Warren Mitchell, William Mitchell, Benjamin Portland, Lemuel Richardson, John G. Spence, Eugene Valentine, Major West, Thomas Wilson, and Thomas Worlds.

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Arrangement note

The collection is arranged in 5 series, each in chronological order, as follows. Series 1: Mortgages, 1849-1854 Series 2: Receipts & Financial Statements, 1856-1857 Series 3: Miscellaneous Legal Documents, 1849-1857 Series 4: Internal Church Documents, 1851-1855 Series 5: Correspondence, 1854

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Brooklyn Public Library - Brooklyn Collection

Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY, 11238
718.230.2762
bcref@brooklynpubliclibrary.org

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is located in the Brooklyn Collection at the Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza. The collection may only be used in the library and is not available through interlibrary loan. Requests to view the collection must be made at least 48 hours in advance of visit. This collection contains fragile material which cannot be photocopied.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Acquired from Waiting for Godot Books, January 1999.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Available at the Brooklyn Collection: BAF vertical file “Churches. First (African Methodist Episcopal Zion)”

The African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church (Known as Bridge Street AWME Church). Brooklyn, N.Y.: AWME Church, 1980.

Baldwin, L.(1983). “Invisible” Strains in African Methodism: a history of the African Union Methodist Protestant and Union American Methodist Episcopal Churches, 1805-1980. Metuchen, N.J.: The American Theological Library Association and The Scarecrow Press, Inc. catalog record

Burrows, E., and Wallace, M. (1999). Gotham: a history of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. see subject index under “African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church”

Hogarth, G. (1844). The Doctrines and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Sixth revised edition. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Piercy & Reed, Printers.

Hood, J. W. (James Walker) (1895). One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; or, The Centennial of African Methodism: Electronic Edition. http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/hood100/hood.html

Jackson, K., ed. (2010). The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press. catalog record

Richardson, H. (1976). Dark Salvation: the story of Methodism as it developed among Blacks in America. Garden City, New York: Anchor-Press/Doubleday.

Taylor, C. (1994). The Black Churches of Brooklyn. New York: Columbia University Press.

Van Derze, C. (1977). An Introduction to the Black Contribution to the Development of Brooklyn. Brooklyn, NY: New Muse Community Museum. see especially “Religion: The Black Church in Brooklyn” (pp.53-62) & “Some Historic Notes on Williamsburgh and Bushwick” (pp.117-128)

Warriner, E. (1885). Old Sands Street Methodist Episcopal Church, of Brooklyn, N.Y.: an illustrated centennial record, historical and biographical. New York: Phillips & Hunt.

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Controlled Access Headings

Subject(s)

  • African Americans--New York (State)--New York--Churches
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Church history

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Series 1: Mortgages 1849-1854 

Scope and Contents note

This file consists of a series of complex mortgages entered into by officials of the A.M.E. Zion Church concerning church property. These documents illustrate the financial instability of the church and the struggles of church administrators to retain control over their institution. Many of the documents reflect incremental payments made by the church on properties as well as their eventual default on the properties and contain multiple signatures or marks of church officials.

1 1

Series 2: Receipts & Financial Statements 1856 

Scope and Contents note

Includes detailed receipts and financial statements relating to the purchase and transfer of church property, the earliest dating back to 1836, just after the congregation was organized. One item is an 1853 receipt from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, on the newspaper’s letterhead.

1 2

Series 3: Miscellaneous Legal Documents 1849-1857 

Scope and Contents note

This file consists of miscellaneous legal papers (such as depositions, official court statements, deeds, and foreclosures) that document the financial and legal dealings of A.M.E. church officials relating to church properties.

1 3

Series 4: Internal Church Documents 1851-1855 

Scope and Contents note

This file consists of dated lists of A.M.E. Trustees and proceedings of elections for church officers. Some documents include signatures or marks of church officials.

1 4

Series 5: Correspondence 1854 

Scope and Contents note

A slim file containing one letter in which Warren Mitchell inquires as to the status of foreclosure proceedings regarding the A.M.E. church property.

1 5