Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Today in the Mission Yearbook

African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative

Collecting and sharing history about the Black Presbyterian experience

April 29, 2024

The Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) continues to make progress on its effort to document the Black Presbyterian experience through the African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative (AALC).

The AALC brings resources to bear on collecting church and leader records — both the personal records of longtime church workers and the original records of Black congregations. Recently, a new group of churches participated in the program, including Salt and Light and New River Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and three churches in Queens, New York: the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans, Hollis Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica.

Along with paper records, PHS collects a wide variety of digital formats and records oral and video histories. Through AALC, PHS recorded interviews at the National Black Presbyterian Caucus conference and preserved the memorial service of Melva Costen.

In 2023, PHS added 29 new African American collections amounting to more than 25 cubic feet and 26 gigabytes of data. These included the commonplace books of Edler Hawkins and the personal papers of minister, mission worker and theologian Marsha Snulligan Haney; the elder and social worker Gladys Turner Finney; and the minister and Black Caucus organizer Maxine Jenkins.

The PHS digitization team imaged more than 10,000 pages of records for nine Black Presbyterian churches, among them Christ Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee; Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Edisto Presbyterian Church in Edisto Island, South Carolina.

The AALC supports the free digitization of African American congregations’ earliest records. African American congregations can have their session minutes and registers imaged at PHS (up to 1,200 pages of text) at no cost. PHS can then secure the original records in the archives or return them to the church.

Video URL:

Because it’s impossible to understand the PC(USA) without listening to Black voices, PHS is highlighting two oral histories that bookend last year’s work: a January interview with then-Stated Clerk of the General Assembly J. Herbert Nelson, II and a December interview with Cedric Portis of Third Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.

Learn more about the African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative.

This article first appeared as a PHS blog post:

David Staniunas, Presbyterian Historical Society

Today’s Focus: Black Presbyterian experience

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Catherine Gordon, Representative for International Issues, Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Mission Agency  
Denise Govindarajan, IT Associate Director, IT Application Development, Administrative Services Group (A Corp) 

Let us pray

Dear God, thank you for hearing our cries to end the injustice of racism and to become the beloved community. Help us to respond to your call on our lives to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you. Amen.