The mission of the African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC), a joint project of VTS and the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, is to collect and preserve the stories, experiences, and perspectives of Black Episcopalians. The AAEHC gathers letters, journals, photographs, sermons, oral histories, writings, records, and similar materials from Black individuals and organizations and others working with people of African descent in the Episcopal Church. To support and encourage use of the collection, the AAEHC offers travel grants annually.
The AAEHC is a cooperative effort of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church and the Bishop Payne Library here at Virginia Theological Seminary.
The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church was founded in 1910 to further the understanding of church history among those interested in the Episcopal Church. The Historical Society publishes a journal (Anglican and Episcopal History), sponsors a book series (the University of Illinois Press Studies in Anglican History), and organizes historical conferences. Members of the Historical Society began to discuss the possibility of the African American Episcopal Historical Collection in the 1990s and to gather materials for the collection in 2000.
In December 2002, the Historical Society and the Virginia Theological Seminary agreed jointly to sponsor the AAEHC. VTS, which is the second oldest and largest of the Episcopal seminaries in the United States, has had a long-standing interest in ministry by and among African Americans. From 1878 through 1949, the Bishop Payne Divinity School in Petersburg, Virginia, was the primary institution for the education of African American candidates for Episcopal ministry. Bishop Payne Divinity School merged with Virgnia Theological Seminary in 1953. The VTS library was later named Bishop Payne Library in honor and memory of the former divinity school.
Oral History Program
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: AskAAEHC@vts.edu.
Since 2014, the AAEHC has offered funding for scholars to travel to Alexandria to conduct research in the Collection. Several awards are given each year. The program is temporarily paused while we navigate through the pandemic, but will be offered again when safe to travel. Please check back here or contact AAEHC staff for more information.
Virginia Theological Seminary, Box 159
3737 Seminary Road
Alexandria, VA 22304
The AAEHC is located in the Seminary Archives on the lower level of Bishop Payne Library.