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August Quarterly, an African American religious festival that filled Wilmington’s French Street with throngs of people for over 150 years, has deep roots in African Union Methodism. Peter Spencer organized the first gathering in Wilmington in August 1813, shortly before the Union Church of Africans was incorporated. The 1814 festival was the first in connection with the Union Church of Africans as an incorporated body.
“A spectacular expression of both worship and culture,” August Quarterly offered opportunities for preaching, singing, prayer meetings, love feasts, and other forms of worship. In antebellum times, it was a gateway to freedom for slaves from the upper South.Its social and cultural dimension was expressed through family reunions, feasts, storytelling, and deep and genuine laughter. Its political significance was revealed through protests against slavery, colonization, and segregation. Churches of various denominations participated in the festival, which attracted thousands of people from throughout the region.
The Quarterly became primarily a Founder’s Day celebration after Mother African Union Methodist Protestant Church, its focal point, relocated from French Street to North Franklin Street in 1969. Efforts to revitalize and update the festival continue as it celebrates its bicentennial.