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Fri, 11.19.1858

The First AME Church (Oakland, CA) Opens

*The founding of the First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church of Oakland, California, is celebrated on this date in 1858. 

This house of worship emerged in the eastern part of the Bay Area, founded by members of the Black community in Oakland at the time, but it wasn’t until 1863 that they had a physical building to hold their services. The church founders collectively purchased what was then the Carpenter School House. First AME Church was the first, and still is, the oldest African American church in Oakland. During its time, it was the only African American church in the East Bay for thirty years. 

The First African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church of Oakland was the first Black Church to be founded in the East Bay and the only one in Oakland for more than three decades. It was the first school for minorities in Oakland since only white children were allowed to attend public schools at this time. The A.M.E. Church also acted as the cultural center of the African American community, hosting not only the first church and school but social and political clubs, events, and festivals. The First A.M.E. Church of Oakland began with a small group of Oakland residents and is the oldest African American church in Oakland.

The church founders purchased the Carpenter School House in 1863, which became the first church building. At this time, the church was called Shiloh A.M.E. Church and acted as a school for minorities; the teacher was one of the A.M.E. church founders, Elizabeth Flood. In 1884, Reverend James Grisby led the congregation to a larger church building on 15th Street in Oakland, known as the Fifteenth Street Church. In 1949, Reverend H. Solomon Hill became pastor, and in 1954, they led the congregation to a new church building at 3701 Telegraph Avenue, where it was renamed the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. Since then, the church has been renovated and improved numerous times, notably surviving the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. 

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