The African American Episcopal Historical Collection was established in 2003 at the Virginia Theological Seminary Archives as a joint project with the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. Through documents, institutional records, oral histories, personal papers, and photographs, the collection documents the experience of African American Episcopalians in the United States. Individual collections contain significant references to religious faith and involvement in the Episcopal Church, particularly at the regional, diocesan, and local levels.
The AAEHC actively conducts pertinent oral history interviews to document the lives and experiences of Black Episcopalians in the first person. If you know of subjects and are interested in contributing to the AAEHC Oral History Program by conducting interviews, please see the program Guidelines and contact AAEHC staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, travel reimbursement grants are available to individuals who would like to use the AAEHC for research. Faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, independent researchers, and Episcopal clergy and laypersons are encouraged to apply. Funds may be used for transportation, meals, lodging, photocopying, and other research costs. A brochure and application are found here.
Discussion of an African American Episcopal Historical Collection began in the 1990s with gathering materials starting in 2000. The Historical Society and the Virginia Theological Seminary agreed to sponsor the AAEHC In December 2002. VTS, the second oldest and largest of the Episcopal seminaries in the United States, has a long-standing interest in ministry by and among African Americans. From 1878-1949, the Bishop Payne Divinity School in Petersburg, Virginia, was the primary institution for the education of African American candidates for Episcopal ministry. It merged with VTS in 1953. The VTS library was later named in honor and memory of the former divinity school. The collection is housed in the Bishop Payne library.
Under an agreement between Virginia Theological Seminary and the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, the seminary's library in Alexandria, Virginia as been designated as the home for the documents illustrating the history of the church's African Americans.
In the new archival project, the African American Episcopal Collection will include a variety of media--oral histories, institutional records and other documents, as well as photographs--chronicling the lives and experiences of blacks in the church. The agreement also includes a plan to expand the collection, obtain additional funding and materials, and improve its accessibility. This summer the library will construct additional archival space to accommodate the collection.
The seminary library is named in honor of the Bishop Payne Divinity School, a seminary for the education of African and African American Episcopalians that merged with Virginia Seminary in 1953. The primary goal of the new collection is to make its materials available for both scholarly research and education of the wider church.
The African American Episcopal Historical Collection will be formally dedicated in a ceremony at Virginia Theological Seminary, in Alexandria, on Thursday, February 24, at 1:30 pm. The African American Historical Collection solicits, preserves, and makes available for research and public education unique documentary evidence of the African American experience in the Episcopal Church of the United States and its colonial antecedents. These collections consist of written and printed documents, audio and visual recordings, and photographs.
The keynote speaker for the dedication will be Bishop Herbert Thompson, of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, and preaching will be the Rev. Canon Angela Ifill, missioner for the Episcopal Church Center’s Office of Black Ministries.
The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church and the Bishop Payne Library of the Virginia Theological Seminary, in December 2002, agreed to jointly sponsor the Collection.
Virginia Theological Seminary, which is the second oldest and the largest of the Episcopal seminaries in the United States, has had a long standing interest in ministry by and among African Americans. From 1878-1949 the Bishop Payne Divinity School, in Petersburg, Virginia, was the primary institution for the education of African American candidates for the Episcopal ministry. Bishop Payne Divinity School merged with Virginia Theological Seminary in 1953. The seminary’s library was later named in honor and in memory of the former divinity school.
Donations of appropriate archival materials from African American individuals and/or organizations or others working with African Americans in the Episcopal Church are encouraged. All donations are documented by a Deed of Gift transferring full title to the Historical Collection. For further information, on donating material contact Julia Randle or Margaret L. Lewis at 703-461-1850 and 703-461-1732 respectively.
Monetary donations may be sent to Virginia Theological Seminary, 3737 Seminary Road, Alexandria, Virginia 22304, earmarked for the African American Episcopal Historical Collection.
Historical Society of the Episcopal Church
Dedicated to preserving and disseminating information about the history of the Episcopal Church and its antecedents.