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First African Methodist Episcopal Church

Theme: Spirituality & Community

Designated a city landmark in 1984, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) is the oldest African American church in Seattle. FAME was established in 1886 as a Sunday school and was incorporated as a church in 1891.

Seaborn Collins, a native of Georgia, arrived in Seattle in 1885 with his wife and son and used his carpenter skills to build a home near East Madison Street. His deep faith led him to form the first Sunday school for Black children. He was among the first prominent Black urban settlers to be a charter member of the newly recognized FAME church. Not only was Collins committed to the growth of FAME, he is also credited with helping to establish Mount Zion Baptist Church, the first Black Baptist church in Seattle.

FAME was incorporated in 1891. Prior to incorporation, Reverend Thomas served as pastor, with Reverend L. S. Blakeney assuming the pastorate in 1890. The church settled in a large house located on what was then Jones Street, now 14th Avenue. In 1912, a church building was constructed at this same location with amenities that included Italian windows and custom pews. FAME expanded its footprint by purchasing two lots adjacent to the church building in 1923.

By the 1940s, the African American population had grown significantly in Seattle, with demand for World War II labor and location of Armed Services personnel. The result increased FAME’s congregation to the point of exceeding its building capacity. In 1955, a remodel of the church property enlarged the sanctuary and added an educational wing. Benjamin McAdoo, a prominent local Black architect, designed and supervised the renovation.

The 1960s civil rights movement in Seattle was largely influenced by the leaders of Black churches, along with community-based organizations. Reverend John H. Adams became the twenty-third pastor at FAME in 1962. Adams chaired the Central Area Civil Rights Committee (CACRC) for six years and co-founded the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP/Byrd Barr Place), the oldest continuously operating program as result of the War on Poverty.

FAME has always been active in lifting the African American community and has ownership in properties that support the livability of Black people in Seattle and King County. In addition, FAME initiated education/early learning programs such as Head Start and is committed to teen and adult enrichment programs.

In 2011, beyond its spiritual outreach, the church opened the MLK FAME Community Center. They purchased a retired Seattle Public School building, MLK Jr. Elementary, with the vision of creating a vibrant cultural center. The purchase was not without pushback from Madison Valley neighbors who questioned their intent and the fairness of the process. Today, the center functions with pride as a stakeholder in the community promoting social, cultural, arts, and economic programs for residents of all ages, races, cultures, and ethnicities.

Images

The First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2008.

Photo courtesy of Joe Mabel.

Dorothy Johnson stands to be recognized at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Seattle. Johnson started attending services there in 1947.

Photo courtesy of Erika Schultz, The Seattle Times.

Maxine Dillon Holmes raises her hands during the First African Methodist Episcopal Church's 125-year anniversary service on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.

Photo courtesy of Erika Schultz, The Seattle Times.

On March 20, 1965, more than 600 people marched from the First African Methodist Episcopal Church on 14th Avenue to a rally at the U.S. Courthouse in support of equal rights for blacks and in solidarity with civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama.

Photo courtesy of the Museum of History & Industry.

Bishop John Hurst Adams discussing education on November 19, 1987.

Photo courtesy of the Museum of History & Industry.

The First African Methodist Episcopal Church in March 1990.

Photo courtesy of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State.

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