The African American Episcopal Historical Collection at Twenty Years

Date: July 20, 2023

On October 11, 2023, the African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC) will celebrate 20 years of chronicling the history of Black people in the Episcopal Church. In 2003 the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church and the Bishop Payne Library formed a partnership to archive the stories of the largely unsung, but remarkable and defining role that African Americans have played in the on-going saga that is the Episcopal Church.  The AAEHC is governed by a Steering Committee comprised of members from the Historical Society and from the Bishop Payne Library. Over the years, the AAEHC has collected documents, photographs, books, and other artifacts along with oral histories of clergy and laity and their parishes — telling the stories that have defined, or define, our contemporary culturally rich worship communities.  The AAEHC ensures unfettered access for scholars and researchers and promises that donations to the Collection will be held and protected in perpetuity.   All of this is made possible by contributions from the two institutional partners, many individuals, and especially by the continued generosity of the Nancy M. Prichard Endowment Fund.

In addition to its preeminence (along with the national church archive) as a historical repository, the AAEHC travel grant program has awarded 22 (5 in 2023) travel grants in support of on-site research resulting in dissertations, articles, books, films, and a range of other publications that unearth truths in order to share the legacy of Black Episcopalians.  The AAEHC and its governors regard as sacred the need to Bear Witness to such rich, often complex (frequently heretofore untold) stories.

The AAEHC Anniversary Day participants will share their challenges and successes as historians.  Persons and parishes have done the work, and they want to tell of their experience, wisdom, and hope.  And we want to hear and learn. The keynote address in the morning will be given by Julieanna Richardson, Founder and President of The HistoryMakers, a digital archive of African American oral histories, and in the evening by the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, Assisting Bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Please come.

And by all means do stop by the AAEHC on the lower level of the Bishop Payne Library to ask questions to help your research, or to scratch that curiosity itch.  Even better would be to simply nip in at any time and ask one of the staff members to “open a box, any box.” Then enjoy a time of discovery. There is always a surprise. You will not be disappointed.

Riley Temple, MTS, JD, Collection Growth Specialist for the AAEHC
Casey Jones, AAEHC Student Assistant
Bishop Payne Library

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