Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 December 2019
The antebellum period provided African Methodist Episcopalians (AMEs) with opportunities to tie their institutional development to the church’s emancipationist ethos. Whenever these migrant Methodists settled in hostile areas in the Northeast and Midwest or identified with blacks in various slave settings, AME churches became known as outposts of black freedom and secret stations on the Underground Railroad. Institutional development was itself an assertion of black insurgency against established racial regimes that opposed African American equality. This pattern continued through the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Interpreting the war as an act of God’s judgment against slave owners and black deliverance from bondage presented AMEs as constituting a freedom church. Its mission to evangelize, educate, and protect the political rights of the freed people also linked church expansion to the fulfillment of these emancipationist objectives. These goals were intrinsically aligned and showed African Methodism, despite displays of cultural and class elitism, as the people’s church.