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Tue, 12.17.1782

Peter Spencer, Religious Leader born

Peter Spencer

*The birth of Peter Spencer is celebrated on this date in 1782. He was a religious leader and the father of the Independent Black Church Movement.

Born a slave in Kent County, Maryland, Spencer was manumitted upon the death of his master and moved to Wilmington. A mechanic with some knowledge of the law, Spencer became known in his community as "Father Spencer" as his particular brand of legal advice, literacy, and religious fervor made him popular. He taught people to read and write and believed in the power of education and religion as a powerful combination.

His African Union Methodist Protestant Church, founded in September of 1813, was the first independent black church founded in the United States (Richard Allen's AME Church in Philadelphia began in 1793 as a local church but did not separate from the Methodist Episcopal Church until 1816). Spencer's church is known today as the Mother African Union Methodist Protestant Church and is located on 9th and North Franklin Streets in Wilmington, Delaware. After the church's founding, Spencer also created the August Quarterly in 1814, a meeting held in Wilmington on the last Sunday of every August.

The Quarterly provided the Black communities from several surrounding states with a reunion and religious revival. Slaves and free laborers were given the day off to attend. Runaway slaves used the Quarterly as a starting point from which to escape through the Underground Railroad, and Spencer himself aided in the escapes of slaves along with Thomas Garrett, Wilmington's stationmaster. Before his death in 1843, Peter Spencer founded 31 churches and several schools. 

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