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In celebration of Black History Month  here are a variety of sources on African American United Methodist history from the General Commission on Archives and History Collections.

A Radio Program, Television and Civil Rights

In the late 1950s TRAFCO – the predecessor to UMCom – created a television series that focused on a variety of contemporary issues.  Two dealt with the issue of race and racisim in society. The programs featured a 15-minute play which  focused the topic folled by a 15-minute panel discussion of the issues.  No solution was put forward which was purposely done to encourage discussion among the viewers of the program.

The Meeting Place
Two doctors find themselves bucking a town which has suddenly become race conscious

Outside the Walls
Mr. Jordan, the minister of the church, holds the view that the Church should be a source of personal spiritual power and an agent for social action.  While the story focues on immigrants and how they are treated, given the time when this program was shone – 1959 – it was possibly a stand-in for race as well. 

These programs and more can be found at Media Catalog and then select Talk Back from the Browse drop-down.

The 1960s was an important era of change in the U.S. Nothing was more significant than the challenge to segregation mounted during that time. One particular program from The United Methodist Church was able to capture the feelings and encourage dialogue in a way no other could. “Night Call,” one of the first nation-wide call-in talk radio programs, was able to focus on the issue of civil rights and race relations, along with other important issues of the day, by fostering civil dialogue across the airways. Digitized versions of the program can be found at our historic audio database

The program ran, with a small hiatus, between 1966 and 1969. It was broadcast late in the evening with host Russ Gibb, followed by Del Shields. Both interviewed leaders of the civil rights campaign who then took calls from people around the country. Civility and respect in dialogue was a hallmark of the program. Once on the audio database home page use the Browse Subjects dropdown and select ‘race relations’ or ‘civil rights’ to see between 12 to 21 programs on those topics. You’ll discover a variety of other topics to browse as well. We’ve just added 12 newly digitized programs from the summer and fall of 1968. Here is a short selection:

American Poverty (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; Ralph Abernathy, (Guest)

Racial Violence (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; Stokely Carmichael, (Guest)

Is Integration Out of Date? (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; Kenneth Clarke, (Guest)

Black Panthers and Black Power (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; Eldridge Cleaver, (Guest)

Poor People’s Campaign (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; Andrew Young, (Guest)

Is St. Petersburg Another Memphis? (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; A. D. (Alfred Daniel) King, (Guest)

What’s Next for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference? (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; Jesse Jackson, (Guest)

How to Make Black Power Work for Black People (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; Saul Alinsky, (Guest)

Dick Gregory’s Run for the Presidency (click on title to listen to program, please)
Del Shields, (Host) ; Dick Gregory, (Guest)

“Night Call” covered controversial topics of the day. Its purpose was to create a space for dialogue as much as it was to educate.

Additional information at the United Methodist Communications archival finding aid.

Where are the Records of the Central Jurisdiction?

This is a question we hear with some regularity. And it deserves a thoughtful response because, like many aspects of history, there is no simple answer. The Central Jurisdiction is the way the Methodist Church, from 1939 – 1968 practiced segregation. All Methodist African American conferences and local churches were placed in this Jurisdiction. This ensured the separation of whites and blacks at all levels of the life of the church, except at the very highest. But since the ending of that jurisdiction in 1968 and the integration of the conferences by 1972 many have asked what happened to its records?

As is so often the case, we need to ask, “What is the real question?” The Central Jurisdiction’s purpose just like all the other jurisdictions, was to elect bishops who would then serve in that jurisdiction. The jurisdictional conference met every four years, so there are actual records of that organization’s functions. But people are seldom asking about the institution. They are wondering about the annual conferences which belonged to that jurisdiction, about the boards, or the camps or other organizations which were related to the jurisdiction. They are wondering what happened to those records. Or they are wondering about a local church? What happened to that church or the pastor they remember from childhood?

So, recognizing the different levels of that basic question here are some of the answers.

Information on pastors that served in churches which were part of the Central Jurisdiction can be found in the conference journals. In the conference journals you can find service records as well as obituaries/memoirs. GCAH has a significant collection of conference journals going back to the 1770s. We don’t have them all. If you are looking for information on a pastor you can contact us at  our research pageemail a request  or visit our database of clergy memoirs to what we have.

Information on local churches can often be found in several places. If you are looking for a list of pastors of your local church, we can help as can your local conference archives. If the local church is closed and you are looking for its records, such as membership or baptism records, then you will want to contact the current conference archives. GCAH can help you determine which current annual conference archives to contact. The conference archives may have the records, or the records may be with a new church because one or more older churches merged.

Finally, if you are looking for the records and reports of the Central Jurisdiction, then we have those as well, along with the other jurisdictions within the U.S. and many of the central conferences from overseas.

Along with GCAH, the African American Methodist Heritage Center  (AAMHC ) is also working on collecting the history of individuals and local communities on a national as well as regional scale. Within various annual conferences there are those who are working to preserve this portion of our past.

Like so many questions, it is the question behind the question that is important. The Central Jurisdiction played a significant role within the history of United Methodism in the 20th century and its ramifications are still felt. Much of its institutional history will be found here at GCAH or with AAMHC, but its history will also be discovered in annual conferences and local churches around the country.

Representative Collections Related to UM African American History

In addition to the selections below, GCAH is also working on the papers of Teressa Hoover, an important leader in the Woman’s Division  in the 1950s and 1960s.

Records of the General Commission on Religion and Race of the United Methodist Church
1968 – 1992 
122 cubic feetThe General Commission on Religion and Race helps to educate the denomination on issues of race and ethnicity. The records reflect the agency’s workshops, grant programs and monitoring functions.

The Rev. Dennis R. Fletcher Papers
1934 – 1979
1.25 cubic feetDennis R. Fletcher was a United Methodist minister. His ministry began in 1934 in the former Delaware Annual Conference, with more than six years devoted to the active local pastorate. Fletcher’s connectional services spanned the global church as he worked for 27 years with the Board of Missions, Section of Church Extension and 3.5 years as the Executive Director of Gulfiside United Methodist Assembly in Mississippi. Fletcher was a forerunner in the number of African Americans holding posts at the general level of the church. He helped lay the groundwork for the dismantling of the Central Jurisdiction and creation of a more inclusive church. His papers include sermons, photographs and biographical information.

Matthew Walker Clair, Jr. Papers
1.98 cubic feetMatthew Walker Clair, Jr. was a Methodist Church bishop. The collection is made up of material relating to his ministry. 

Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly
1967- 1996
1.47 cubic feetBishop Leontine T.C. Kelly was the first African American Woman to be elected bishop, not only in the United Methodist Church, but in any major denomination.

Alfred Waller Papers
1.26 cubic feetThe personal papers of Alfred M. Waller, Jr. (1948-1987), American United Methodist minister and Drew University faculty member. This collection contains reference material, various artifacts, publications, sermons, and correspondence largely pertaining to anti-apartheid activities and African American history and issues.

Peter Murray Collection on the Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church
1960- 1984
0.312 cubic feetThis collection deals with the elimination of the Central Jurisdiction.

Records of the Commission for the Study and Action on the Jurisdictional System
1940- 1960
1 cubic feetOne of the first commissions established by the General Conference to look into the issues of racial segregation within the denomination and how to effectively end it.

Ralph T. Templin Papers
1913 – 1996 
12.0 cubic feetRalph T. Templin (1896-1984), an American Methodist missionary, educator, publisher, and social activist. Collection contains file folders on various places, organizations, and people Ralph T. Templin associated with during his missions.

Historical Photographs from the Past Century

A group of photograph albums  from the  1910s and 1920s record the ministry and life of African Amreicans in our United Methodist past.   The albums are part of a larger set now available on-line.

Negro #1

Negro #2

Negro #3

Negro #4

Negro #5

Negro #6

Negro #7

Additional Resources:

General Secretary Rev. Alfred T. Day III reflects on a recent pilgrimage to Montgomery, AL:

Timeline link:


GCAH African American Collections:

End of the Central Jurisdiction:


Richard Allen:

Harry Hosier:

Nora E. Young:

John Stewart:

Sallie A. Crenshaw:

Gulfside United Methodist Assembly History:

Bethune-Cookman University:

Bishop Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly:

Mary McLeod Bethune:

Mother African Zoar United Methodist Church:


Methodist History: Mother African Zoar’s Legacy (UMTV)

Tindley Temple: A Highlight of Methodist History (UMCom)

Methodist History Comes to Life at St. George’s (UMTV)

Methodist History: Bishop Fought Slavery (UMTV)

Center Honors Black Methodists’ History (UMCom)

African American Woman’s Incredible Life as a Methodist Missionary (UMCom)

Don’t forget to visit our archival finding aid database, our historical media database,  and search and browse through back issues of Methodist History.
Contact us and let us help you begin your discovery of remembering the past and making it relevant for today.