The Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) has created an online tool providing chronological information about the Black Presbyterian experience reaching back to the 1800s.
The new interactive timeline currently includes over 70 entries ranging from biographies of African American Presbyterian leaders to information on the founding of historically Black institutions in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations. PHS staff worked for months to add new entries to the timeline, combing through materials and histories in the archives to share with the public.
The timeline can be accessed through the African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative (AALC) page on the PHS website. Individual timeline markers can be shared as links or social media posts, such as a profile of the Rev. Hugh Mason Browne, who passed away 200 years ago this year.
Visitors to the timeline can also learn about leaders such as Rev. Theodore Sedgwick Wright, the first Black man to receive a seminary education in 1828, or Dr. Thelma Adair, the first Black woman elected as General Assembly moderator at the 1976 General Assembly (GA 188) of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
PHS has made strides toward collecting a more complete record of Presbyterian history through the AALC. The initiative brings human and capital resources to bear on collecting records of the Black Presbyterian experience — both the personal records of longtime church workers and the original records of Black congregations.
Through the AALC, PHS has collected the records of the Rev. Dr. Gayraud Wilmore as well as other Black denominational leaders; partnered with the Center for Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary and the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (Columbia University Libraries) to digitize the complete records of the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon; and offered free digitization services to historically Black congregations in the PC(USA). To learn how African American churches can digitize their records through the AALC, visit www.history.pcusa.org/aalc.
This January, PHS rolled out a new blog series dedicated to the stories of African American Leaders in the PC(USA). The African American Leaders Series shares the biographies of prominent Black leaders in the church each month. Already featured are the Rev. Dr. William Lloyd Imes, the Rev. James H. Costen, and Yenwith and Muriel Whitney.
As the storytelling continues, PHS plans to expand the African American Presbyterians timeline to include new biographies along with more recent, as well as hidden, histories.
Want to learn more about the national archives of the PC(USA)? Get to know PHS!