Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston

Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston

The African Methodist Episcopal Church originated in 1787 in Philadelphia with the establishment of the Free African Society, which was rooted in the doctrines of Methodism and the teachings of John Wesley. A similar organization emerged in Charleston in 1791 under the leadership of Rev. Morris Brown, a free black preacher associated with another Methodist church in the city. This display of autonomy by black members led to a separation from the Methodists, giving rise to the foundation of three black churches in Charleston, collectively known as the Bethel Circuit. The congregation of Emanuel A.M.E. Church is one of the churches born from this movement.

Initially, the church was located in the Hampstead neighborhood on the city's east side and boasted a membership of 1,000 by 1818. Just four years later, in 1822, Denmark Vesey, a skilled carpenter who had purchased his freedom, devised plans for a slave insurrection within the premises. News of the planned rebellion leaked, resulting in the execution of Vesey and some of his supporters, and the burning of the Hampstead church. By 1834, the state legislature in South Carolina ordered the closure of all black churches.

Following the Denmark Vesey incident, some of the congregation returned to white churches, while others continued their African church traditions clandestinely. In 1865, after years of underground worship, the congregation resurfaced, now numbering 3,000 members. The current church building, completed in 1891, still retains the original gas lamps that line the sanctuary. With seating for 2,500 individuals, is the largest African-American congregation in Charleston today.

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Mother Emanuel AME Church on Map

Sight Name: Mother Emanuel AME Church
Sight Location: Charleston, USA (See walking tours in Charleston)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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