Travel back in time to witness Memorial A.M.E. Zion’s incredible journey from the early 1800’s to present day.  Discover our rich history and the contributions of many of our pastors and the members of our congregation to our community and beyond.

Early 1800

June 28, 1800

The Church’s beginnings are traced back to a group of “Negros” who met in secret in various homes to worship as such gatherings were forbidden until the Emancipation Act was passed by the State of New York in1827

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1827

June 28, 1827

1827

Rev. Thomas James, an escaped slave become the first pastor of A.M.E. Zion Church. Rev. James was born a slave in Canajoharie, New York in 1804. At the age of seventeen he was bartered for a yoke of steers, a colt and some additional property. After a severe beating he sought to escape from slavery finding refuge in Canada. He returned to the U.S. to Rochester and gained employment at the Hudson & Erie Warehouse. He found time to attend school and joined the Young Methodist Society.  Thomas James demonstrated religious leadership abilities and eventually began to preach. Rev. Thomas…

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1831

June 28, 1831

Under the leadership of Rev. Thomas James, a church site at the corner of Spring and Favor was obtained and a one-story, wooden structure was completed and occupied as the a church edifice.   The first Sunday School was organized.

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1832-1835

June 28, 1832

1832-1835

Incorporation papers are recorded in Monroe County Clerk office, 1832. The church’s incorporation was finalized in 1835 signaling a significant step in its establishment as one Rochester’s institutions. Soon after it became known as the A.M.E. Zion Church of Rochester. Rev. Thomas James remained pastor until 1835 and is replaced by Rev. Dempsey Kennedy. Unfortunately, church history during this timeframe until 1869 is not well recorded and exact dates of the following pastoral appointments are not known: Revs. John Lyells, Zacheria Tyler, John Thomas and Roswell Jeffreys

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1847-1849

June 28, 1847

1847-1849

When Frederick Douglass moved to Rochester in 1847 to begin his abolitionist newspaper, he became one of the prime “stationmasters” on the railroad. Both his home and office were used as stations. Frederick Douglass edited his famous abolitionist newspaper, North Star” from A.M.E. Zion Church’s basement.

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1850’s

June 28, 1850

1850’s

Harriet Tubman escaped slavery eventually finding a home in the Finger Lakes Region. Once she had her freedom, she returned south countless times to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom. Some of those trips included stops at A.M.E. Zion Church which contained a trap door by the pulpit and escape tunnels leading to Plymouth Avenue and the Genesee River.

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1850’s

July 29, 1850

1850’s

Susan B. Anthony, the women’s rights activist, delivered her last public address from A.M.E. Zion Church to “Colored Citizens” just three months before her death.

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1850’s

July 30, 1850

1850’s

John Brown, the famous abolitionist and mastermind of the attack on Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and Frederick Douglass first met in 1847 at John Brown’s home in Springfield, Massachusetts. From this meeting, Brown and Douglass became close friends. Whenever Brown visited Rochester, Douglass’ home became his headquarters. Douglass and Brown supported each other’s efforts to free the slaves. John Brown was also connected to the family of Susan B. Anthony. Brown visited Rochester in April of 1859, gave a speech from A.M.E. Zion and City Hall.

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1869

June 28, 1869

Rev. William Abbott is appointed Pastor. (1869 – 1870)

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1870

June 28, 1870

Rev. William Stanford is appointed Pastor. (1870 – 1871)

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1872

June 28, 1872

Rev. Abram Cole is appointed Pastor.

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1873

June 28, 1873

Rev. David Weir is appointed Pastor.

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1874

June 28, 1874

1874

Rev. J. W. Lacy is appointed Pastor. (1874 – 1877) During his tenure he held a large revival that resulted in 62 people uniting with the church.

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1877

June 28, 1877

Rev. Isaac Stewart is appointed (1877 – 1880), was known as a forceful speaker and effective preacher.  During his pastorate, a new church was built.

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1879

June 28, 1879

The first church was replaced by a second building at the same site.

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1880

June 28, 1880

Rev. George Biddle is appointed. (1880 – 1882)

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1882

June 28, 1882

Rev. N.E. Collins is appointed.  (1882 – 1884)

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1884

June 28, 1884

Rev. C.A. Smith is appointed.  (1884 – 1886)

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1886

June 28, 1886

Rev. Gordon Stewart is appointed.

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1887

June 28, 1887

Rev. M. H. Ross is appointed.  Rev. G. C. Carter is appointed. (1887 – 1889)

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1890

June 28, 1890

Rev. J. E. Mason is appointed, (1890 – 1894), organized the church work and revised the Sunday school, introducing social features and made the school the largest in the state outside of New York City.

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1894

June 28, 1894

Rev. W.A. Ely is appointed. (1894 – 1895)

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1895

June 28, 1895

Rev. H.J. Callis is appointed. (1895 – 1896)

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1896

June 28, 1896

Rev. J.H. Anderson, appointed (1896 – 1898), was known for his singing ability.

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1897

June 28, 1897

1897

John W. Thompson, member of Memorial A.M.E. Zion church, formed a new committee, which included Mrs. R. Jerome Jeffrey (secretary) and Rev. James Mason, pastor of Memorial A.M.E. Zion church and prominent African Americans across the country to erect a monument in honor of Frederick Douglass after his death in 1895. After many years of delay due to mechanics with the statue, transportation and JW Thompson’s illness, the statue was unveiled in 1899 with more than 10,000 people attending including the Mayor and the Governor.

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1898

June 28, 1898

Rev. Alonzo Scott is appointed. Although only with the church for 4 months, he was known as a gifted musician. During his short stay as pastor, the church experienced a split with some members leaving to organize Trinity Presbyterian Church on Allen Street. Rev. J.J. Adams, appointed, (1898 – 1905), succeeded in reorganizing and reenergizing the congregation.  His stay as pastor for 6 years was the longest pastor in the church’s history to that point.

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1905

June 28, 1905

1905

Rev. J.W. Brown only had two years’ experience as a minister before moving to Rochester to become the pastor.  A building committee was established under his leadership.  Mr. J.W. Thompson was named chairman and Mr. A.J. Spragues, vice-chairman.  It was soon discovered that the members did not possess the deed to the property.  This became an immediate priority for the Committee and the deed was soon secured. Rev. Brown was minister at memorial from 1905 -1913.

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1907

June 28, 1907

1907

A building fund campaign led by the current pastor, Bishop J.W. Brown of New York City, resulted in a new church structure erected which still stands on Favor street today.  Memorial was added to the title of the church in recognition of the beautiful stained glass windows featuring and memorializing Frederick Douglass, donated by John W. Thompson, messenger for the attorney-general’s office at Albany and former leader of the colored branch of the Republican party in Rochester) . Major Charles R. Douglass, son of the late Frederick Douglass, delivered the principle address.  Other windows were also dedicated to Susan B….

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1910

June 28, 1910

1910

A banquet and reception was held in honor of Dr. Booker T. Washington who addressed the church at the occasion.  After 83 years, the first church parsonage was purchased from Miss L. Sweeting located at 397 Clarissa Street (formerly 91 Caledonia Ave).  Pastor J. W. Brown was the first pastor to go from living from room to room to living in a house.

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1912

June 28, 1912

The 85th Anniversary of A.M.E. Zion was held to include  J.C. Price and Frederick Douglass Day.  J.C. Price was the founder of the Livingstone College at Salisbury, N.C.

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1913

June 28, 1913

Rev. Dr. J.H. McMullen (1913 – 1916)

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1916

June 28, 1916

Bishop E.D. W. Jones, was pastor at Memorial from 1916 – 1920.

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1918

June 28, 1918

A Patriotic Observance of the Birthday’s of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass was held at the church.  The program read “You and your friend are invited t be present and help swell the tide of patriotism and enthusiasm, loyalty and race pride.”

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1920

June 28, 1920

Rev. Dr. A. Gorham was pastor at Memorial from 1920 – 1924.

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1927

June 28, 1927

The centennial celebration was marked by a week of special commemorative services in November of 1927, under the direction of it’s current pastor, Rev. Richard R. Ball.

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1932

June 28, 1932

The Yadseut Club, first African American Women’s Club in Monroe County was established by Rev. James Clair Taylor, the minister of Memorial A.M.E. Zion church at the time. Its purpose is to “inform, uplift, and motivate its members to follow the motto – To Serve Others.” The club includes members from other churches within the community. The first president of the club was Mrs. Maude Gouch.  The name of the club was given by Charter Member, Alberta Bailey.  She decided since the meetings were held on Tuesday evenings, the club should be named Yadseut, Tuesday spelled backwards.  The club has…

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1946

June 28, 1946

Sesquicentennial Celebration

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1947

June 28, 1947

Memorial holds an Interracial Day Service.  During this Race Relations Sunday Rev. William Lloyd Imes, director of social and adult education for the New York State Concil of Churches, advocated for a crusade against school race bias.  The service was sponsored by the Federationof Churches, the NAACP, the YMCA and the YWCA.  Among signs of improvement sited during the service was the recent appointment of Dr. Ralph Bunche to head the United Nations’ Commission on the Partition of Palestine.

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1948

June 28, 1948

James and Bessie Hamm, members of Memorial were dedicated to assisting young people in obtaining educational opportunities.  Mrs. Hamm cofounded the Ralph Bunche Scholarship Fund in Rochester.

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1949

June 28, 1949

1949

Rev. Archie C. Bell appointed (1949 – 1961).  During his tenure Rev. Bell created several boards within the church.  In addition, he started a free open house thanksgiving dinner, Everybody’s Birthday Party, and the Annual Appreciation Banquet.

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1953

June 28, 1953

Bishop James Clair Taylor, former pastor of Memorial A.M.E. Zion church, was the opening speaker for the 126th anniversary service.  Memorial holds a series of services called “Know Your Neighbor”.

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1957

June 28, 1957

1957

The congregation of the Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church will honor Dr. and Mrs. Charles Lunsford at a testimonial banquet.  Dr. Lunsford was a county physician for 25 years and held an appointment at St. Mary’s Hospital.

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1961

June 28, 1961

1961

The Rev. Andrew Gibson appointed pastor.  He served Memorial A.M.E. Zion from 1961 to 1992.  Under his leadership, Memorial continued to be a leading force in the community.  He opened the doors of the church to many civic groups to meet and gather. One of clubs originated during Rev. Gibson’s tenure is still active today, the Do Something About It Club.

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1963

June 28, 1963

1963

The Community Child Care Center under the direction of, Memorial A.M.E Zion member, Dr. Juanita Pitts was one of the first Day Care Centers in Rochester started by an African American church. With it’s beginnings in the church basement on Favor Street, it is still operational today at 170 Troup Street. Dr. Pitts was the first female African American physician to have a private practice in the city of Rochester.  Dr. Pitts also created the Frederick Douglass Oratory Contest held annually at Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church

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1971

June 28, 1971

Family Health Sunday The church-health program concept was created by Mrs. Naomi Chamberlain, assistant professor of preventive medicine and community health at the University of Rochester.

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1972

June 28, 1972

1972

The church at 432 Favor street is designated Rochester’s 22nd landmark by the city Preservation Board.  Located at the corner of Spring and Favor street, the A.M.E. church was first built in 1831, replaced in 1879 and again in 1907.  Mrs. Bessie Hamm dies at the age of 80.

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1973

June 28, 1973

Ground breaking for the current church structure on Clarissa Street.  The Mayor, Stephen May was present along with Memorial’s pastor, Rev. A.N. Gibson and the presiding Elder of the Western New York Connection, Dr. Milton E. Williams.

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1974

June 28, 1974

Baritone, William Crimm, a member of Memorial, also the founder and director of the inner-city William Crimm School of Music, was the featured performer in a benefit performance for the school at Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.  Other soloists included soprano Patricia Fleming.

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1975

June 28, 1975

The Memorial A.M.E. Zion congregation held dedication services for the new church edifice on Clarissa Street.

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1978

June 28, 1978

1978

The C.I. Bullock Scholarship Board was established. Named after Charles I. Bullock, a native of Homer, Louisiana, the C.I. Bullock Scholarship Board provides support to the ongoing educational experience of graduating seniors of Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.  Mr. Bullock moved to Rochester in the 1920’s and immediately joined Memorial A.M.E. Zion church, quickly establishing a reputation as a pioneer in molding the careers and lives of young people. His passion for assisting young people reared in the church led him to donating the first $100 contribution to a fund established as the Memorial A.M.E. Zion Scholarship Fund.  In 1983 the…

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1988

June 28, 1988

Memorial A.M.E. Zion church celebrates 160th Anniversary

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1992

July 11, 1992

1992

Rev. Andrew Mackey is appointed. (1992 – 1993)

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1993

June 28, 1993

1993

Rev. Errol E. Hunt, Sr. is appointed.  (1993 – 2005) Rev. Hunt is know for his community involvement and activism.  While the Pastor at Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. Errol E. Hunt founded the RL Edwards Manor Retirement Home, a 50 unity seniors complex  and The Daisy House, affordable apartments, both in the area surrounding the church.  Twenty three new single-family houses were erected with the help of  the Memorial congregation in partnership with the Frederick Douglass Development Corporation.  In addition, Rev. Hunt led the establishment of the Fredrick Douglass Society and founded the City-wide All Male Gospel Chorus, Voices Of Thunder….

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1997

June 28, 1997

The Memorial A.M. E. Zion Church Choir sang at the request of Congresswoman Louis Slaughter at the anniversary of the Women suffrage Movement with Hillary Clinton as the keynote speaker

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1998

June 28, 1998

Memorial A.M.E. Zion’s Choir performed on stage with Country Singer, Reba McIntyre at the War Memorial arena in Rochester, NY. This same year the Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church Choir was privileged to sing at the White House during the Clinton Administration.

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1999

June 28, 1999

2000

November 11, 2000

2000

In 2000, Rev. Errol E. Hunt, in collaboration with Wardell Lewis, Music Director, launched the Voices of Thunder, a City-wide male Gospel Chorus representing various churches in the Greater Rochester area with the purpose of presenting concerts to lift up the name of the Lord and to raise scholarship funds for young African-American males to attend college.  The Voices of Thunder are committed to academic successand church participation for male students.  The group became an incorporated organization in 2006.

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2002

June 28, 2002

2002

  Church celebrates its 175th Anniversary

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2003

November 22, 2003

2003

Rev. Vernice Warfield served as Associate Minister at Memorial AME Zion Church from 2003 – 2006.

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2005

June 28, 2005

2005

Rev. Dr Kenneth Q. James is appointed Pastor

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2009

June 28, 2009

The 81st Session of the Young People’s Congress of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was held at Memorial A.M.E. Zion church hosted by current pastor Rev. Dr. Kenneth Q. James

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October 2016

October 28, 2016

October 2016

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter welcomed Civil Rights Icon Congressman John Lewis to Rochester at Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church during which time he spoke to a packed church sharing his experience during the Civil Right Movement, especially what is know known as “Bloody Sunday” in Alabama where he almost lost his life fighting for equal rights and justice.

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November 2016

November 28, 2016

Memorial A.M.E. Zion is highlighted in a Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article featuring iconic works of local architecture James H. Johnson.

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April 2017

April 28, 2017

April 8, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Q. James and Class Leader of Leaders, Wynndy Turner were honored at the 1st Annual Laity Banquet hosted by the Rochester-Syracuse District Lay Council and Home Missions at the Genesee Grande Hotel in Syracuse, NY.

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May 2017

May 28, 2017

May 2017

Three Day Spring Revival kicking off the 190th Anniversary featuring guest preacher Bishop W. Darin Moore. Harriet Tubman Pilgrimage Weekend to Auburn, NY to participate in the renaming of Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion church to Harriet Tubman Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.  Our own Sister Magelene Moore-Holley performed a Harriet Tubman Memorial re-enactment

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June 2017

June 28, 2017

June 2017

Ms. Eva Steward Thomas, Director of the Office of Parent Engagement in the Rochester City School District and former “youth of Memorial” was the guest speaker for the annual C.I. Bullock Scholarship Sunday.  Today, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Kenneth Q. James, Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church remains at the forefront of civic activity and responsibility.  Now, Memorial A.M. E. Zion Church is poised to build on its distinguished legacy.  Plans are in place to open a clothes pantry to help those in need and to restart the food pantry focusing on nonperishable goods.  In addition, Memorial is working to…

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Sources

http://www.libraryweb.org/rochimag/roads/johnbrown.htm

http://www.libraryweb.org/rochimag/roads/underground.htm