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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

2 - The Freedom Church, 1831–1861


The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church emerged out of the age of democratic revolution in the late eighteenth century. The fledgling religious body drew moral and intellectual energy from anti-slavery and anti-slave trade initiatives that grew out of the American, French, and Haitian revolutions and from British abolitionism. Within this Atlantic context African Methodism defended the rights and freedom of African and Creole peoples in Africa and the Americas as these mobile populations identified shifting areas of safety where they could realize their autonomy and pursue self-determination. The AME Church, itself an African and Creole institution, linked its development to this “mobile laity” of expatriates, ex-slaves, and emigrationists who were pursuing freedom objectives in varying locations within the Atlantic World. This mobility stirred debates within African Methodism about the transnational identities of their constituents and about how they could achieve the full emancipation of the broader black population. Hence, AME authenticity derived from its commitment to the emancipationist objectives of its diverse and mobile membership.

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