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First A.M.E. Church Celebrates 150 Years of Leadership and Legacy

First African Methodist Episcopal Church, located in Los Angeles, California, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The church was founded in 1872 by a group of African American Methodists who were seeking a place to worship without facing racial discrimination. Since then, the church has become a beacon of hope and a symbol of progress and resilience for the African American community in Los Angeles. It is the oldest church founded by African Americans, with more than 19,000 members.

The church has a rich history of leadership that has helped shape its mission and vision over the years. One of the most notable leaders in the church's history is Bishop Richard Allen, who founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia in 1816. Bishop Allen was a former slave who became a prominent abolitionist and civil rights activist. His vision for a church that was free from racial discrimination and oppression inspired many African Americans to join the AME Church and become leaders in their own right.


The first pastor of First AME Church was Reverend J. M. Brown, who served from 1872 to 1873. Reverend Brown was a former slave who had been ordained as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church before joining the AME Church. He was instrumental in establishing the church and helping it grow in its early years.


Another notable leader in the church's history is Reverend John W. E. Bowen, who served as pastor from 1892 to 1924. Reverend Bowen was a civil rights activist and a prominent member of the Los Angeles community. He helped establish the first black high school in Los Angeles and was a founding NAACP member.


Under Reverend Bowen's leadership, First AME Church became a center for social justice and activism in Los Angeles. The church played a key role in the civil rights movement, hosting rallies and protests and providing support and resources to black activists and community organizers.

Kamala Harris and Eric Garcetti at the First AME Church of Los Angeles in 2020.
Kamala Harris and Eric Garcetti at the First AME Church of Los Angeles in 2020.

In the years that followed, First AME Church continued to be a leader in the African American community and a hub for social and political activism. In the 1960s, the church was a center for organizing and mobilizing during the Watts Riots, and in the 1990s, it played a key role in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots.


Reverend Dr. Cecil "Chip" L. Murray was recruited to join FAME by Bishop H.H. Brookins in 1977. He had previously served at Trinity A.M.E. in Kansas City from 1966 to 1971 and at the First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church in Seattle. Under Murray, the congregation grew from several hundred members in 1977, to roughly 18,000.


Today, First AME Church continues to be a vital part of the Los Angeles community. The church is led by Reverend J. Edgar Boyd, who has been the pastor since 1999. Reverend Boyd is a respected leader in the African American community and a strong advocate for social justice and equality. Under his leadership, the church has continued to be a center for community organizing and activism, and it has expanded its outreach programs to provide support and resources to those in need.

“Our motto is first to serve, and we are proud to continue Biddy Mason’s vision and legacy” --Pastor J. Edgar Boyd

As First AME Church celebrates its 150th anniversary, it is important to remember the legacy of the church's leaders who have helped shape its mission and vision over the years. From Bishop Richard Allen to Reverend J. Edgar Boyd, the church has been blessed with visionary leaders who have dedicated their lives to the service of others. May their legacy continue to inspire us all to work for a more just and equitable world.

The FAME mural is a montage of moving events, a kaleidoscope of colors, taking the viewer through a visual calendar of events. The perspective of the painting draws the viewer’s attention into the mural.
The FAME mural is a montage of moving events, a kaleidoscope of colors, taking the viewer through a visual calendar of events. The perspective of the painting draws the viewer’s attention into the mural.

The famous FAME mural symbolizes the many firsts of the A.M.E. Church:


(1) The first black church to own a piece of real estate in America. (In 1793 it purchased the land at Sixth and Lombard in Philadelphia, on which it later erected a church, Mother Bethel).

(2) The Church published the world’s oldest black religious weekly, the Christian Recorder, 1841.

(3) The Church was the first black institution to promote finance, and to administer a program of higher learning: Bishop Daniel A. Payne purchased Wilberforce University in 1863. Ten other centers of higher education followed in its wake, as well as the nation’s oldest black hospital.

(4) The Church was the first black institution to go to Africa to help other blacks. Its missionary outreach started over 150 years ago.

(5) The A.M.E. Church was the first to enter the publishing business: The A.M.E. Discipline (1817), and the A.M.E. Hymnal (1818).

(6) The first black chaplain was Rev. H.M. Turner.

(7) The first elected black president of Howard University was Rev. J.A. Gregg, who chose instead to become a bishop. As such he was the first black leader selected by the United States to make inspection trips to war areas.

(8) Bishop P.R. Wright Jr. published and edited the largest book ever compiled exclusively by black people.

(9) William T. Vernon served as Registrar of the U.S. Treasury under the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt. He signed certain paper currency, of the nation. He later became a bishop in the A.M.E. Church.

(10) William H. Heard was the Minister to Liberia, and a member of the South Carolina legislature from 1880-1882. He later became a bishop.

(11) Bishop S.L. Greene was the first to sign the documents bringing into being the National Council of Churches, the most important movement in protestant cooperation the world had ever known, November 28, 1950, Cleveland, Ohio.

(12) R. H. Cain, Senator from South Carolina, 1877-79, was a preacher in the A.M.E. Church; President of Paul Quinn College, Waco, Texas; elected a bishop from South Carolina.

(13) Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, attended Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C. He gave the two candlesticks that now stand on the pulpit of the great church.

(14) The first black United States senator was an A.M.E. minister, Rev. Hiram Revels of Mississippi.

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