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History of
African American
Presbyterians

Search by Name or Date

*Some profiles are still in progress. We will add profiles throughout 2023.

1800

Rev. John Chavis

Chavis became the first Black-ordained Presbyterian minister in America. He was ordained by the Presbytery of Lexington in Virginia.

1807

Rev. John Gloucester

Gloucester founded First African Presbyterian Church, the nation’s oldest African American Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After his ordination in 1810, Gloucester continued serving the church until he died in 1822.

1822

Rev. Samuel Eli Cornish

Cornish established the first Black Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, NY, New Demeter Street Presbyterian Church. Working with John B. Russwurm, he founded the first African American newspaper in the United States, Freedom’s Journal.

1823

Miss Betsey Stockton

Stockton was the first unmarried female missionary in the modern mission era. After arriving in Hawaii, she created a school for the Maka’ainana—the ordinary people on the islands. In 1840, she helped found what is now known as Witherspoon Street Church in Princeton, NJ.

1828

Rev. Theodore S. Wright

Wright was the first African American graduate from an American theological seminary upon graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1828 or 1829.

1834

Rev. James William Charles Pennington

Pennington was the first African American to study at Yale, attending classes from 1834-1836. Pennington became a renowned pastor, respected civic leader, and leading abolitionist. He served Presbyterian churches in multiple states.

1842

Rev. Henry Highland Garnet

Garnet was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and served as the first pastor of the Liberty Street Negro Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York.

1855

Rev. Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs

Gibbs graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and pastored Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy, N.Y.

1856

Rev. Elymas Payson Rogers

Rogers was a Presbyterian clergyman, poet, missionary, educator, and prominent abolitionist. He wrote “A Poem on the Fugitive Slave Law” and “The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise Considered.” 

1861

Rev. John B. Reeve

Reeve graduated with honors from Union Theological Seminary as its first African American student. After graduation, he was ordained as pastor of Lombard Street Central Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

1871

Rev. Daniel Jackson Sanders

Sanders graduated from Western Theological Seminary and pastored Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church. He later became the first Black president of Johnson C. Smith University.

 

1875

Rev. Dr. Charles Allen Stillman

Stillman and the Tuscaloosa Presbytery made an overture to the General Assembly to establish the Tuscaloosa Institute to educate African American ministers. Tuscaloosa Institute is now known as Stillman College.

1878

Rev. Francis James Grimke

Grimke was ordained as a minister and served at Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., for all but four years of his 50 years in ministry. He also helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

1880

Rev. Matthew Anderson

Anderson founded Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. His church became a model of urban ministry, working to create institutional public support for the poor.

1883

Miss Lucy Craft Laney

Laney opened the first school for Black boys and girls in the basement of Christ Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA. She went on to start the first Black kindergarten and first Black nursing school in Augusta.

1888

Rev. William Henry Sheppard

Sheppard was ordained in the Presbyterian church and became a missionary to the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), where he exposed atrocities perpetuated by Belgian companies and rulers.

1892

Rev. Charles H. Trusty

Trusty was ordained as a missionary, organizer, and denominational leader; he was gifted at founding new congregations and organizing Black Presbyterians for more effective service in the denomination.

1894

Miss Maria Fearing

Fearing joined Rev. Sheppard in Africa at fifty-six, where she created the Pantops Home for Girls. The home helped girls who were orphaned and those who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery.

1908

Rev. George Waldo Long

Long was installed as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church and principal of the Coulter Memorial Academy. By the time Rev. Long ended his ministry in 1943, the school and church had grown tremendously.

1909

Rev. Warren Julius Nelson

Nelson began his ministry in Marion, SC. In 1925, he began pastoring Goodwill Presbyterian Church, which would go on to send 13 men into the ministry.

1915

Dr. William Lloyd Imes

Imes was ordained in the Presbyterian church and installed at Bethel Chapel in Plainfield, N.J. After serving at various churches in 1943, he became president of Knoxville College and continued in the field of education until his retirement in 1955.

1921

Rev. Arthur Henry George

George was ordained by the Fairfield Presbytery in S.C. and took a call to pastor Calvary Presbyterian Church in Wilson, N.C. In 1934, Rev. George became a Johnson C. Smith University professor and later dean of the seminary.

1928

Rev. Irvin Windfield Underhill

Underhill graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary. He was assigned as a missionary to the Cameroons by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.

1938

Dr. Albert McCoy

McCoy became Director of the Division of Work with Colored People, which was part of the Board of National Missions. He was the first Black executive of a General Assembly Board in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

1938

Rev. James Robinson

Robinson was an ordained pastor of Harlem’s Morningside Presbyterian Church. He would go on to establish Operation Crossroads Africa, which is considered a forerunner of the Peace Corps.

1938

Rev. Elder Hawkins

Hawkins was an ordained pastor at St. Augustine Presbyterian Church in NY. In 1964, Rev. He became the first African American moderator of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church.

1942

Rev. Elo Henderson

Henderson graduated with his Master of Divinity from Johnson C. Smith University. After pastoring various churches, he served for many years as the first Black executive for the Synod of Catawba of the United Presbyterian Church.

1948

Darius & Vera Swann

The couple served as educational missionaries to China and India with the Presbyterian Church (USA.). They were the denomination’s first African American missionaries in a non-African country.

1950

Ms. Emily Gibbes

Gibbes was one of the first Black women employed as executive on the national staff of the United Presbyterian Church. She served as Field Director of the Board of Christian Education.

1950

Rev. Gayraud S. Wilmore

Wilmore was ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia at Second Presbyterian Church. He became the first executive director of the UPCUSA’s Commission on Religion and Race and a key figure in the civil rights movement.

1954

Rev. Benjamin Franklin Glasco

Glasco became the first African American moderator of the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

1959

Rev. Virgil L. Jones

Jones was a Presbyterian minister who joined the staff of United Campus Christian Ministry at Wayne State University in the 1959-60 academic year. He served at Wayne State for 16 years.

1967

Joan Nabors

Nabors became the first African American female to attend Covenant College. She went on to become one of the first missionaries in the PCA.

1976

Rev. Donald Sherow

Sherow became the first African American ordained in the PCA. Sherow was pastor of Berachah Community Church in Augusta, GA.

1978

Teaching Elder (TE) Mitch Hall

Hall planted the first Black-led church plant in the PCA, New Covenant Fellowship Mission in Atlanta, GA.

1982

TE Carl Ellis

Ellis was ordained in 1982 in the RPCES, and within a month it became the PCA. He currently serves as the Provost’s Professor of Theology and Culture, Assistant to the Chancellor, and Senior Fellow of the African American Leadership Initiative for Reformed Theological Seminary.

1988

Dr. Oliver Trimiew

Trimiew became the first African American faculty member at Covenant College.

1995

TE Louis Wilson

Wilson planted Redemption Fellowship in Fayetteville, GA.

1996

TE Michael Jones

Jones planted Harvest Community Church in Birmingham, AL.

1996

TE Larry Cockrell

Cockrell planted Household of Faith Church in Birmingham, AL.

1998

TE Kevin Smith

Smith planted Mt Zion Covenant Church in Bowie, MD.

2000

TE Wy Plummer

Plummer became the African American Ministries Coordinator in 2000. Prior to that, he served in Baltimore as co-pastor of New Song Community Church and assistant pastor at Faith Christian Fellowship.

2000

TE Mike Campbell

Campbell became the first African American to preach at the PCA’s General Assembly. Campbell currently serves as the Senior Pastor of Old Cutler Presbyterian Church in Miami, FL.

2003

TE Carson Pittman

Pittman became the first Black Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) Intern at Georgia Southern. He currently serves as a Navy chaplain at Pearl Harbor.

2005

Dr. Anthony Bradley

Bradley became an assistant professor of theology at Covenant Seminary, where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.

2007

TE Elbert McGowan

McGowan became the first African American RUF Campus Minister. He was also the first African American to plant an RUF at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Jackson State University.

2010

TE Roy Hubbard

Hubbard started an RUF at Alabama A&M, an HBCU, and served there for five and a half years.

2010

Suzanne Bates

Bates joined the faculty of Covenant Seminary. She later became the first full-time African American female professor in 2018 and now serves as Assistant Professor of Counseling.

2011

Dr. Mike Higgins

Higgins became the first Black Dean of Students at Covenant Seminary. He became the seminary Chaplain in 2019.

2012

Ronjanett Taylor

Taylor became the First Diversity Advisor for PCA’s Women’s Ministry Team.

2013

Latasha Allston

Allston became the first African American female RUF intern. She served RUF on the campus of Jackson State University in Jackson, MS, for ten years. She is now on the staff of RUF at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

2013

TE Daryl Wattley

Wattley was the first African American to graduate with a Masters in Divinity from RTS Atlanta. He started RUF at Delaware State (an HBCU).

2015

Dr. Thurman Williams

Williams joined Covenant Seminary as Adjunct Professor of Homiletics at Covenant. In 2021, he was named Director of Homiletics for the seminary. He also preached at General Assembly in 2016.

2016

TE Kris Cooper

Cooper started RUF at a third HBCU, North Carolina Central University.

2017

TE Russ Witfield

Witfield became Director of Cross-Cultural Advancement for RUF. He also serves as pastor of Grace Mosaic, a cross-cultural church that he helped to plant in Northeast Washington, DC. In 2020, Rev. Whitfield was promoted to an Assistant Coordinator position

2017

Rev. Howard Brown

Under the leadership of Rev. Howard Brown, Christ Central Church in Charlotte, NC, became the first Black pastor to plant a Black-led church. West Charlotte Church was co-planted by Rev. Charles McKnight in the Central Carolina Presbytery.

2018

TE Irwyn Ince

Ince was unanimously elected to be the 46th PCA General Assembly moderator – the first African American elected to the position.

2019

TE Jonah Hooper

Hooper began RUF at Winston-Salem State University, an HBCU.

2020

TE Cyril Chavis

Chavis started a new RUF at Howard University, an HBCU. Prior to working at Howard, he was the RUF campus minister at Jackson State University.

2020

Denine Blevins

Blevins became the first African American Director of Parakaleo, a ministry that trains, supports, and values women involved in church planting. Prior to her appointment, she served with AAM from 2018-2020.