Bethel Literary and Historical Society

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The Bethel Literary and Historical Society was an organization founded in 1881 by African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Daniel Payne and continued at least until 1915.[1] It represented a highly significant development in African-American society in Washington, D.C.[2] Most of its early members were members of the Metropolitan AME Church where its meetings were held, while maintaining an open invitation for black Washingtonians from across the city. It immediately developed into the preeminent debating society and forum for racial issues in Washington, D.C. The prospect of a separation of schools for black children was heatedly debated in 1881–82 as were the ideas of Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois in 1903.[1] It was one of the stops of ʻAbdu'l-Bahá's journeys to the West.

The society's presentations attracted a wide swath of speakers:[3] Frederick Douglass ("The Philosophy and History of Reform"), Mary Ann Shadd ("Heroes of the Anti-Slavery Struggles"), Mary Church Terrell ("A Glimpse of Europe"), Belva Ann Lockwood ("Is Marriage a Failure?"), John Mercer Langston ("The Emancipated Races of Latin America"), Kelly Miller ("Higher Education"), Ida B. Wells ("Southern Outrages"), Archibald Grimké ("Modern Industrialism and the Negro in the United States").

While several records of the organization are not preserved, among the presidents of the society listed in various sources are:

In various references it is also called Bethel Historical and Literary Society, Bethel Literary. There were also sister organizations with the same name, for example in Philadelphia.[3]


  1. ^ a b McHenry, Elizabeth (2002). Forgotten readers: recovering the lost history of African American literary societies. Duke University Press. pp. 141–185. ISBN 978-0-8223-2995-4.
  2. ^ Moore, Jacqueline M. (10 February 2005). "Bethel Literary and Historical Association". Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations. Vol. Online. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Roberts, Kim (Spring 2010). "The Bethel Literary and Historical Society". Beltway Poetry Quarterly. 11 (2). Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Observing Lincoln's Birthday". Evening Star (Washington (DC), District of Columbia). Tuesday, 11 February 1896, p. 12.
  5. ^ "Equality under the Merit. System-the Interest of the Negro-American in Civil". Freeman (Indianapolis, Indiana). Saturday, 26 June 1897, volume: 9. issue: 26, p. 3.
  6. ^ "Todyism". Saturday, 2 November 1895. Washington Bee (Washington (DC), District of Columbia). Volume: XIV Issue: 19, p. 4.
  7. ^ "The Microcosm of the Negro". Friday, 22 January 1897. Evening Star (Washington (DC), District of Columbia), p. 10.
  8. ^ Chesnutt, Charles Waddell; Crisler, Jesse S.; Leitz, Robert C.; McElrath, Joseph R. (2002). An exemplary citizen: letters of Charles W. Chesnutt. Stanford University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-8047-4508-6.
  9. ^ "Founder's Day at Bethel". Colored American (Washington (DC), District of Columbia). Saturday, 11 March 1899. Volume: 6. Issue: 49, p. 5.
  10. ^ "Bethel Literary Association". Colored American (Washington (DC), District of Columbia). Saturday, 9 November 1901. Volume: IX Issue: 32.
  11. ^ a b "The Colored American is Thankful". Colored American (Washington (DC), District of Columbia). Saturday, 28 November 1903. Volume: X Issue: 21, p. 4.
  12. ^ "Bethel Society Incorporated". Evening Star (Washington (DC), District of Columbia). Thursday, 31 May 1906, p. 16.
  13. ^ "Bethel Literary". Washington Bee (Washington (DC), District of Columbia). Volume: XXVI. Issue: 34. Saturday, 19 January 1907., p. 5.
  14. ^ Thomas, Richard Walter (2006). Lights of the spirit: historical portraits of Black Bahá'ís in North America. US Baha'i Publishing Trust. pp. 32–33. ISBN 978-1-931847-26-1.
  15. ^ "At the National Capital. Hampton Night Was the Stellar Event". Freeman (Indianapolis, Indiana) Saturday, 26 November 1910. Volume: XXIII Issue: 47, p. 1.

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