The AME/BME Church and the Underground Railroad : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

I'm helping someone do a project on the Underground Railroad and the AME Church's role in its operation.

1. In doing research, I've noticed that some Canadian Churches are listed as AME during certain dates, BME (British Methodist Episcopal) on later dates and then as AME again after the Civil War. Does the BME Church still exist in some form, or was it fully reintegrated into African Methodism?

2. Can anyone supply me with links or refer me to books that deal in depth with the AME Church's role in the Underground Railroad?


John Cager

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2004


I believe it was integrated into the AME church in 1884, along with Bishop Disney.

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2004

The BME church is still very much active in Ontario Canada. One of the largest African-Canadian churches in Windsor the city south of Detroit in Ontario is a BME church. One of the AME churches used the building for an Annual Conference a few years back.

-- Anonymous, July 11, 2004

Some sources I dug up:

"The British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Church has long been a part of Black History in Owen Sound. Established in 1856 on the Sydenham River near 8th street and the Mill Dam, this Church has served the black community’s spiritual needs for 146 years. Its primary outreach was to former slaves who had reached Canada via the Underground Railroad, before and during the American Civil War. In 1911 the original building was abandoned and the congregation moved into the present brick structure location on 11th street West. Founders of the Emancipation Day Picnic celebrations in Owen Sound, this tradition continues today after 140 years without a break. Designated in 1985 as an Ontario Heritage Building in Owen Sound, by Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander."

"The church was the most important institution in most Black communities. Church leaders were often spokespersons to the larger community. The denominations were usually Baptist or Methodist. Baptist congregations encouraged a democratic participation by the election of their ministers. Black Methodists, coldly received in White congregations, turned to the African Methodist Episcopal church, which entered the colony from the United States in 1838 and by 1840 had organized an Upper Canada Conference. The Conference was instrumental in supplying the church with ministers and sending bishops occasionally to oversee its work. In 1856, feelings arose that reforms had to take place, and an independent British Methodist Episcopal Church was formed. "

..and what would church be without some drama?....

"Black churches in the Niagara Region of Ontario are threatening legal action if the City of St. Catharines fails to recognize the historical ties between two of the city's churches and the late Harriet Tubman and the Rev. Alan Burns.

The church members have lodged a complaint with the City of St. Catharines Mayor's Committee on Community and Race Relations. They are seeking signage in the city's museum that would state that Tubman was associated with the British Methodist Episcopal Church (BME).

They are also requesting documentation from the city that will indicate that the Zion Baptist Church is the interments rights holder (next of kin) of Burns.

Rochelle Bush, director of the Harriet Tubman Centre for Cultural Studies in St. Catharines, said oral and traditional history indicates that Tubman attended the BME Church for religious and anti- slavery purposes.

Seven years ago, the city's museum began soliciting the Black community in St. Catharines for documentation and artifacts in order to incorporate local Black history into their permanent exhibit.

"We welcomed the opportunity and gave openly in good faith," said Bush. "Unbeknownst to us, the museum staff altered specific parts of the oral and traditional history."

In 1990, the museum's staff endorsed a proclamation on behalf of the City of St. Catharines in honour of Tubman's connection with the BME church. Last year, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the BME Church as a national historic site for its anti- slavery activity and its association with Tubman.

Rev. Burns, an escaped slave whose recapture led to the famous Boston Riots in 1854, moved to Canada and became the pastor of the Zion Baptist Church. He died in 1862, at the age of 28, and his remains were interred at the city-owned Victoria Lawn Cemetery.

In 1998, Bush requested a ban on the duplication of his gravestone and sought full guardianship of the remains for the Zion Baptist Church. The request stems in part from controversy over ownership rights of a copper mould made from Burns' headstone.

Five years ago, the church's request for funding from the cemetery to preserve Burns' gravesite was turned down.

The church approached Parks Canada for information on how to maintain it, and the agency produced a protective cover for the stone.

Bush said the city became involved and the cemetery acquired the copper mould made by the federal agency. "

-- Anonymous, July 12, 2004

More links. SOme of them will point you to A.M.E. Churches that you can get more information from:

-- Anonymous, July 12, 2004

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