The A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C.

The roots of the A.M.E Church in Washington, D.C. extend back to 1838 with the founding of the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church. On January 9, 1884, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech at the church called “The Lessons of the Hour” in which he spoke to “the so-called, but mis-called, negro problem” (Douglass, 3).  In his speech, Douglass candidly sheds light on the atrocious acts of injustice and violence committed by whites towards blacks. He criticizes America’s claims of being a civilized, Christian country as he points to its sinfully cruel treatment of the black race. Further, he addresses the subject of lynching laws and the injustice of convicting blacks of violence against white people without just cause. He points to the fact that when a white man commits a crime, he suffers the retributions himself. Conversely, when a black man commits a crime, “the whole race is made to suffer” (Douglass, 19). In short, Douglass condemns the law as a conspicuous manifestation of discrimination and racism against black Americans. That he is expressing his social concerns in an A.M.E. Church, calls attention to the Church’s prominent role in addressing social issues outside of religious life. And yet he does not see the abolishment of racism as an insurmountable cause. He argues that once white men can recognize and uphold the Christian principles of “truth, justice, and humanity,” towards their black brothers, then the “Republic will stand and flourish forever” (Douglass, 36). Douglass’s speech sheds light on his conviction that a correct interpretation of the Christian religion is the solution to segregation.

A photograph of the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C. was displayed in 1900 as part of the American Negro exhibit at the Paris Exposition. That the American Negro exhibit was present at the Paris Exposition signifies a global interest in the progress of the African American at a time when their progress was being challenged by white society in America. The exhibit was curated and installed by W.E.B. Dubois. This photograph of the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church was one among 500 photographs in the exhibition which displayed the history and "present conditions" of African Americans. Its presence at the exhibit evinces the significant role of the A.M.E. Church as part of African American story. Furthermore, the stately structure of the church which was archetypal of other A.M.E. Churches at the time, suggests the black race was making vast improvements in terms of its economic wealth.