Our newest Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellow, Manón Voice, brings us the story of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest African-American congregation in Indianapolis.The church was organized in 1836 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
In her piece, Voice researched the connections of Bethel AME with the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery movement before the Civil War. Some historians believe the congregations’ support of the abolitionist movement caused the church to be burned in 1862. Still, Bethel AME remained a stalwart of hope in the African-American community in Indianapolis through its commitment to education and community outreach. The church also became a meeting place for local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in the early 1900s.
Voice grew up in the Black church and knows it has always been the epicenter of social and political life for the Black community, and more intimately, a means for members to survive oppression through means of spirituality. She felt the subject matter was important to excavate, due to a trend of marginalization and erasure of the Black historical compendium in Indianapolis. “It is of utmost importance to me that we keep telling the stories of place that become lost or less known over time through urban development and gentrification,” Voice said.
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Event Accessibility: Accessible Entrance, Accessible Parking Designated, Accessible Restrooms, Accessible Seating, Wheelchair Accessible, Elevator to all public areas, ASL Interpretation