Now Available in book form!
Forging Faith, Building FreedomAfrican American Faith Experiences  in Delaware, 1800-1980

by Constance J. Cooper and Lewis V. Baldwin
with additional material not seen here...Purchase your copy now!

Forging Faith, Building Freedom:
African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980

Rainbox Club, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Wilmington, DE, Nov. 11, 1934
Rainbow Club, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Wilmington, November 11, 1934
Sanborn Collection, Delaware Historical Society

In 1813, Peter Spencer founded the African Union Methodist Church, the first independent black religious denomination in the United States. He and other remarkable black Delawareans of their generation asserted their people’s claim to liberty, autonomy, and equality through the creation of churches.  Their actions challenged the United States to live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence for all people. 

The African American faith community, with its message of liberation and transformation, has always encompassed much more than worship and personal spiritual growth.  It has been a comprehensive institution where people could develop their own autonomy and strength, express themselves freely, and work for equality and justice.   

Forging Faith, Building Freedom explores and celebrates the African American faith experience in Delaware from its beginning through the late 1900s.  You will meet dynamic church founders and leaders, learn the story of Peter Spencer and African Union Methodism, and experience the unique role that black faith communities have played in Delaware’s history. 


"Forging Faith, Building Freedom: Black Churches and the Circle of Culture of Delaware" by Dr. Lewis V. Baldwin, Department of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University was given on September 26, 2013 at the opening of "Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware" (can be viewed below).


The Delaware Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following
individuals, churches, organizations, and institutions to
Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980.

African Union Methodist Protestant Church and Connection, Archives of the Episcopal Church, Archives, United Library,
Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, Dr. Lewis V. Baldwin,  Regina Barry ,Bell Funeral Home, Kevin Benjamin,
Bethel A.M.E. Church, Smyrna, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Wilmington,
Tikiah D. Brown, Terry A. Bryan, Rev. Vernon M. Bryant and Lucinda A. Jones-Bryant, Terence Burns, Byrd’s A.M.E. Church
Challenge Program, Chippey African Union Methodist Church, Barry Corke
Dr. Peter T. Dalleo, Paul Preston Davis, Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Historical Society Staff,
Delaware Humanities Forum, Delaware Public Archives, Delaware State University Gospel Choir,
Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, an agency of the state of Delaware,
Thomas Doherty, Dr. Martin Drew, Dena Chasten-Ellis,
Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, Rev. Ruth Evans, Ezion-Mount Carmel United Methodist Church,
Doug Fagley, Cabinet Masters Plus, LLC, Hagley Museum and Library, Ruby Harrington, Bishop Thomas Holsey
Interdenominational Church Ushers Association of DE, Interdenominational Ministers Action Council (IMAC) of Delaware (Wilmington),
Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA) of Dover,
Rev. Dr. Clifford Johnson, Lois Johnson, Bev Laing, Library Company of Philadelphia, Rev. Dr. Lawrence M. Livingston, Janet Neville-Loper,
Andrew McKnight, Charles Marshall, Sr., Cynthia Primo Martin, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University,
Mother African Union Church, Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Richard Allen Archives, Philadelphia, Jackie Moultrie, Vivian C. Moyer and Family,
Mt. Enon Baptist Church, New Destiny Fellowship, New-York Historical Society, Dr. James Newton, Dr. Jeanne Nutter,

Rev. Rita Paige, Edythe Pridgen, The Resurrection Center, Shiloh Baptist Church, Simpson United Methodist Church, Debra Sipple,
St. Joseph Catholic Church, Star Hill A.M.E. Church, Meg Thomas,
Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, Inc., United Methodist Publishing House,
Vanderbilt University, College of Arts and Science Support for Faculty Travel Grants, Sandra S. White

If you have comments, questions, or additional information, please contact


The original exhibition was designed,
fabricated, and installed by the
Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs,
an agency of the state of Delaware.


This program is partially funded by a grant
from the Delaware Humanities Forum,
a state program of the
National Endowment for the Humanities.


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The Delaware Historical Society is the statewide, non-profit organization that explores, preserves, shares, and promotes Delaware history, heritage, and culture to strengthen our community.