The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
For over a hundred years, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has been the steadfast guardian of the Harriet Tubman Home and the sacred grounds upon which it stands. In so doing, the church has maintained a living memory that will honor the legacy of Harriet Tubman and the freedom movement she so eloquently represented for decades of future generations. For the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, for whom so many view as America's true Freedom Church, it is another brick in the long highway of justice for its people.
It was another step in God's journey that had begun in 1796. It was that year when James Varick, Francis Jacobs, William Brown and other members of the John Street Methodist Church in New York City withdrew from the general Methodist church and held separate meetings as a direct result of racism they'd experienced. Varick and the others wrote that they had a "desire for the privilege of holding meetings of their own, where they might have an opportunity to exercise their spiritual gifts among themselves, and thereby be more useful to one another."
In 1800, the first building at the corner of Church and Leonard Streets in New York's lower Manhattan district became officially the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The members felt that it was a sign from God that the building they had chosen was on a street called 'Church'.
By 1801, The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is chartered and "Mother Zion" is built. In 1822, James Varick became the first bishop. During the long fight against slavery, A.M.E. Zion would emerge as a stalwart defender of the human rights and dignity of the black man and woman. It was the voice of freedom where the powerful speeches by Frederick Douglas and the passionate winds of the abolitionist movement would resonate from its pulpit.
It was the Freedom Church. In addition to the membership of Harriet Tubman, the church was the worship home for Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth as well.
By the time in 1857 that Harriet Tubman had purchased her first home from former Governor and U.S. Senator of New York, William Seward, in Auburn, New York, and moved her family there, the A.M.E. Zion Church had been long established in the community.
At her death in 1913, the funeral services for Harriet Tubman were held in the Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Auburn.
Today, the A.M.E. Zion Church is the spiritual tie to more than 1.3 million members. Its ministries are throughout the world including Africa, Latin America and Canada. It is still referred to as the Freedom Church.