Mt. Tabor African Methodist Church

Mt. Tabor African Methodist Church. Image provided by Historical Society of Pennsylvania

961-71 North 7th Street

Mt. Tabor African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1803. The free black community began settling in Northern Liberties as early as the 1790s, when the newly formed state legislature opened up land in the then-outlying district to relieve overcrowding in the city of Philadelphia proper. By the 1830s, Northern Liberties had a growing free black population and played an integral role in Philadelphia's Underground Railroad network. Although South Philadelphia remained the cultural center for the African American community, many blacks in outlying districts chose to attend smaller churches closer to home, such as Mt. Tabor and African Zoar Methodist Episcopal at 4th and Brown. Today Mt. Tabor is one of the largest AME churches in the Philadelphia "Mother District," and is one of the first to elect a female pastor, the Reverend Martha Lang, appointed in 1983.

Like Mother Bethel, Mt. Tabor is African Methodist Episcopal (AME), an independent denomination formed from the 1794 African American break with the predominately white St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Old City. When the white congregants of St. George's tried to force black members into segregated galleries during service, the blacks walked out, prompting the birth of a new denomination. The new AME denomination proved especially appealing to both free blacks and recently manumitted and fugitive slaves. Former slave and lay Episcopalian minister Richard Allen and fellow St. George's congregant Absalom Jones cofounded the Free African Society, from which two new congregations were born: Mother Bethel AME (led by Allen) and St. Thomas African Episcopal (led by Jones). By 1837, almost three-quarters of all black worshippers in Philadelphia were Methodists. The next largest denomination among blacks was Episcopal, reflecting the population of the city's second largest African American congregation—Jones's St. Thomas African Episcopal.

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