African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas
The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas was founded in 1792 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the first black Episcopal Church in the United States. It developed from the Free African Society, a non-denominational group formed by blacks who left St. George's Methodist Church because of discrimination. Led by Absalom Jones, a free black and lay Methodist preacher who became ordained in 1804 as a priest in the Episcopal Church, the Church became one of the major features in Philadelphia's black cultural life.
While the congregation has worshipped in several different buildings, it has remained continuously active since its founding. The original building, dedicated on July 17, 1794 at Fifth and Adelphi Streets, is under the passageway/plaza now known as St. James Place. The congregation is now located at the intersection of Overbrook and Lancaster Avenues in Philadelphia's Overbrook Farms neighborhood. Other locations included Twelfth Street below Walnut Street, 57th and Pearl Streets, and 52nd and Parrish Streets. Clergy and parishioners were active in abolitionism and the Underground Railroad in the 19th century, and in the modern Civil Rights Movement.
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