Racial Segregation and the Black Church

How did early black churches react to racial segregation?

Resistance to discrimination in the church consistently has taken many forms. In the North, for example, Peter Spencer (1782–1843) in Wilmington, Delaware, Richard Allen (1760–1831) in Philadelphia, and James Varick (c. 1750–1827) in New York, led their black followers out of white Methodist churches and set up independent black congregations. In Allen’s case, his departure was preceded by a dramatic confrontation over segregated seating in Philadelphia’s white Methodist church. Each of these men then used his congregation as the nucleus of a new black Methodist denomination—Spencer formed the African Union Church in 1807, Allen the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1816, and Varick a denomination eventually called the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion) in 1821.


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