First black Episcopal priest's death remembered Feb. 13

Posted: Feb. 15, 2013 8:43 am Updated: Mar. 8, 2013 10:15 am


To The Herald-Whig:

Absalom Jones was born a slave in 1746, who eventually purchased his freedom and that of his wife.

A full member and leader of the increasing black membership of St. George's Methodist church in Philadelphia, he along with Richard Allen so alarmed the vestry members that they decided to segregate those members to an upstairs gallery. This resulted in Jones, along with Richard Allen, leading the black members out of the church.

The two organized the Free African Society and built a church which became St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, a thriving church to this day. They sought oversight from the Episcopal Bishop White. Richard Allen, wanting to continue the Methodist path, formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and Jones was ordained deacon in 1795 and Episcopal priest on September 21, 1802.

The two ministers worked tirelessly in the great cholera epidemic during the early period at the request of the city fathers who thought that African Americans were immune to cholera. Fr. Absalom Jones died on February 13, 1818, and his feast day is now celebrated in the Episcopal Church.


James P. Donovan