Faith In History

The Struggles, Success, Sojourns, and Rarely Shared Stories that Have Sustained the Members of Historic Black Churches along the Eastern Corridor

As reported by The Rev. D. Kevin McNeir: Convener, Researcher, and Griot

The Black Church represents the faith and body of Christian denominations and congregations in America, primarily attending to the needs of African Americans while honoring their collective traditions. Their roots can be traced to the days when racial segregation, slavery and the destruction of the Black family were commonplace.

Most of the congregations and churches formed before 1800 were founded by freed blacks. Some of their earliest leaders, including Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and George Liele, courageously formed their own churches to secure their independence from white control – opposing racism, leading anti-slavery campaigns, and promoting education which included founding schools for black children.

But how did they overcome the beatings and burnings, Jim Crow and economic oppression, and the mental, emotional, and physical violence which their members faced day after day? And how has their mission evolved since first opening their doors in those much darker and dangerous days?

Join me as I board Amtrak over the next year to visit some of the oldest and most historic congregations along the Eastern Corridor: Shiloh Baptist and Metropolitan AME in Washington, D.C.; Mother Bethel AME in Philadelphia; First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, VA; Mt. Zion UMC in Lawnside, NJ; and more.

We’ll talk to the preachers and teachers, the elders and the youngsters, those who greet us at the doors and those who lead us in songs of praise.

We’re going to have a “hallelujah good time.”

We welcome your suggestions for congregations to visit and thank our supporters in advance who make it possible for us to break bread with our brothers and sisters in these historic places of worship

Thurgood Marshall Social Justice Resource Center

Faith in History Blog