black history month Feb 2023
Join us this month as we celebrate these significant individuals
and moments in African American History!
This famous image of Jones was rendered by Philadelphia artist Raphaelle Peale in 1810.
A New Biography of Absalom Jones
Annals of the First African Church
African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas
The Life of the Reverend Absalom Jones
November 6th, Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex, Delaware.
Master Wynkoop moves Absalom to Philadelphia to work in he new shop, after selling his farm and Absalom's mother, sister and five brothers along with it. More »
Jones starts receiving an education.
After meeting at St. Peter's Church, Jones marries Mary Thomas, another slave. Soon after Jones works with his Father-in-law, John Thomas to purchase her freedom.
Jones if finally granted manumission (freedom from slavery) by his master after years of asking to purchase his freedom.
Absalom Jones and Richard Allen establish the African Free Society, an organization that held religious services and provided mutual aid for "free Africans and their descendants" in Philadelphia.
The Vestry of St. George's Methodist Church decides to segregate black parishioners to a newly built gallery, of which many black members helped to fund as a church expansion project. "During a Sunday morning service a dispute arose over the seats black members had been instructed to take in the gallery and ushers attempted to physically remove them by first accosting Absalom Jones. Most of the black members present indignantly walked out of St. George’s in a body."*
This same year the African Free Society makes the decision to build the African Church of Philadelphia. After a vote of the church members, they choose to affiliate with the Episcopal Church.
The newly built African Church of Philadelphia is dedicated.
The church was admitted to the diocese as the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.
The church was incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of PA.
Jones begins serving as Deacon.
Rev. Absalom Jones is ordained and becomes the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church.
"Jones was an earnest preacher. He denounced slavery, and warned the oppressors to “clean their hands of slaves.” To him, God was the Father, who always acted on “behalf of the oppressed and distressed.” But it was his constant visiting and mild manner that made him beloved by his congregation and by the community. St Thomas Church grew to over 500 members during its first year. The congregants formed a day school and were active in moral uplift, self-empowerment, and anti-slavery activities. Known as “the Black Bishop of the Episcopal Church,” Jones was an example of persistent faith in God and in the Church as God’s instrument. Jones died on [February 13th] in 1818."*
REVISED ABSALOM JONES BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
Arthur K. Sudler
William Carl Bolivar Director
Historical Society & Archives
African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas
While researching Absolom Jones, I came across this fantastic film which premiered on PBS in February of 2021. The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song is a moving four-hour, two-part series from executive producer, host and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, that traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power.
The documentary reveals how Black people have worshipped and, through their spiritual journeys, improvised ways to bring their faith traditions from Africa to the New World, while translating them into a form of Christianity that was not only truly their own, but a redemptive force for a nation whose original sin was found in their ancestors’ enslavement across the Middle Passage.
A production of McGee Media, Inkwell Media and WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Get Lifted. More info