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This date in 1850 marks the founding of St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal (A. M. E.) Church of Sacramento, California.
For many years called Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and it was the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in the western United States. Organized in the Sacramento home of Daniel Blue, its first name was the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1851, after a special vote of the congregation and a petition to the Indiana Conference for national admission, the name was changed to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. That same year, the congregation erected its first church structure, a 20' x 30' frame building costing $3,000.
This building was also the site of a groundswell of the first organized political activity by Blacks in California. The County of Sacramento now owns the lot in the state's capital city where Bethel A.M.E stood. Historically, this Black Church played a critical role in serving as a place of worship and a principal vehicle for the community. Later in the 19th century, the name was changed to the St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church. Fifteen years later, in 1867, the cornerstone for a larger brick building was laid on the Seventh Street site before the original church.
Almost 100 years later, the church erected a modern building on a new site at 2131 Eighth Street, Sacramento. St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church is an excellent example of a church that assumed a prominent political role in the history of 19th-century California. It actively supported California's Black community in its struggle to gain the full rights of citizenship. Bethel A.M.E. is the name under which this church acquired political prominence in the mid-19th century.
On three occasions, in 1855, 1856, and 1865, Bethel A.M.E. hosted the California Colored Citizens' State Convention. The right to testify in court against a white person was the political issue of the first two conventions; the abolition of segregated schools was the subject of the 1865 convention. When historian and civil rights advocate W.E.B. Du Bois came to town in the mid-1920s, he insisted on speaking at the church instead of to a segregated audience elsewhere. The original 1850 wooden church building was located at 715 Seventh St, Sacramento, California.
California African American Museum
600 State Drive, Exposition Park
Los Angeles, CA 90037