Conclusion

W.E.B. Du Bois prefaces his book “The Souls of Black Folk,” by proposing “to sketch, in vague, uncertain outline, the spiritual world in which ten thousand thousand Americans live and strive” (Du Bois, 1). From this modest proposition came one of the most significant works that finally addressed the religious experience of African Americans. Its publication in 1903 signified a modern shift in terms of African American religion being recognized as scholarly subject for a wide audience of Blacks and Whites. The creation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church signifies a similar shift. Before the A.M.E. Church, Blacks were kept in a liminal place of invisibility within White institutions such as the Methodist Episcopal Church. In the words of D.E. Tobias, Blacks were “freed but not free.” Blacks occupied this perpetual state of striving to be accepted, but the rigid parameters of White society would not allow for their full immersion and acceptance. With the A.M.E. Church, African Americans found that inclusion could be achieved by first forming a separate institution. The A.M.E. Church carved a unique place in Black society. It functioned as both a safe haven and a psychological refuge from white oppression. Most significantly, the Church functioned to elevate the Black race and integrate them into society by opening schools, training center, and centers of community organization. The A.M.E. Church became a force to be reckoned with because it gave Black Americans a voice that demanded the attention of White America. While educating the Black population was important, it was not the only answer. The A.M.E. Church imbued Blacks with a sense of self-worth and a positive self-image—an idea which was critical if they wanted to be accepted in White society. Furthermore, the Church gave Blacks a vehicle through which to educate White society in tolerance and acceptance.  Most significantly, the African Methodist Episcopal Church was a unifying force that gave African Americans a powerful voice that resonated throughout American society.