The first Black pastor to lead a White congregation, the founding of the AME Church, and slavery splits American denominations.
By A.G. Miller
1843 Isabella Baumfree (1797-1883) changes her name to Sojourner Truth and begins a career as preacher, abolitionist, and feminist.
1844 The Methodist Episcopal Church separates over the issue of slavery, forming North and South branches.
1845 White Baptists split over the issue of slavery. The northern group, the Northern Baptist Convention, is now called the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.. The Southern branch took the name of Southern Baptist Convention, claiming an estimated 200,000 Black members.
1849 Harriet Tubman (c. 1821-1913) escapes slavery from the Maryland Eastern Shore. Following the North Star as her guide, she made some 19 trips into the South, and leading some 300 blacks to freedom.
1850 Passage of the Fugitive Slave Law makes the apprehension of Blacks, ex-slaves or not, relatively easy.
1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
1853 Representatives from seven states organize the Western Colored Baptist Convention, which lasted until 1857.
1854 The Presbyterian Church establishes Ashmun Institute (later renamed Lincoln University) in Pennsylvania to train Black men for missions and ministry.
1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act declares that the residents of new territories have the right to decide the slave issue for themselves.
1856 The Methodist Episcopal Church North establishes Ohio’s Wilberforce University, named for the famous British abolitionist, to educate Blacks. The AME Church, under the leadership of Bishop Daniel A. Payne, purchased Wilberforce University in 1863, making it the first college for African-Americans owned and operated by a Black organization.
1857 In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court declares that slaves are property, even when living in a free state, and that Congress cannot forbid slaveholding.
1859 John Brown leads an unsuccessful raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, hoping to inspire and supply a widespread slave insurrection.
1860 The Confederate States of America secede.
1861 The Civil War begins.
1863 Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in rebelling states.
1864 The American Missionary Association sends Sara G. Stanley, an African-American educated at Oberlin College, south to educate the newly freed slaves. She was one of many Blacks and whites who saw the education of former slaves as their calling.
1865 The Confederate States surrender and the United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolishes slavery except for convicted criminals.
1867 The Consolidated American Baptist Missionary Convention organizes with 100,000 members and 200 ministers.
1868 The Fourteenth Amendment establishes citizenship for African-Americans.
1870 The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (now the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church) organizes in cooperation with the Methodist Episcopal Church South. During the Reconstruction period, the Methodist Episcopal Church South lost significant numbers of its former slave membership to the AME, AMEZ, and the Northern Methodists. At its founding, the Southern Methodists were down to 40,000 freedmen and women.
1870 The Fifteenth Amendment establishes right to vote for Black men.
1886 Led by Rev. William J. Simmons, six hundred delegates from 17 states organize the American National Baptist Convention.
1895 Three Baptist organizations unite, forming the National Baptist Convention of the U.S.A., Inc.—the largest African-American denomination in the U.S.
A.G. Miller is an assistant professor of religion at Oberlin College, Ohio.