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The African American Episcopal Historical Collection Celebrates Ten Years


Media Contact: Curtis Prather
Tel: 703-461-1782 
Email: cprather@vts.edu 

Alexandria, Va. - Yesterday, Nov. 3, 2013, marks the 10th anniversary of the African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC) as a joint project of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church (HSEC) and Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), which provides a home for the collection in the Bishop Payne Library. Founded to ensure that the vibrant history of African American Episcopalians would be told to future generations, the AAEHC, includes documents, institutional records, parish histories, oral histories, personal papers and photographs. 

"We give thanks to those who have contributed items to the collection, to the African American Episcopal Historical Collection Steering Committee and to the generous donors who invest in the collection," said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary. "We are also grateful to the trusted caretakers of the collection. The archivist, Mr. Chris Pote, and the assistant archivist, Dr. Joseph Thompson, are fantastic resources." 

The project began in the 1990s with a group of historians affiliated with HSEC who wanted to preserve the stories of African American Episcopalians. In 2003, the partnership with VTS began. The AAEHC aligned well with the Bishop Payne Library’s mission to sustain the memory of the Bishop Payne Divinity School, a seminary for the education of African American Episcopalians that merged with VTS in 1953. The AAEHC broadens this mission to document the contributions of African Americans to the Episcopal Church, for both scholarly research and for the education of the wider church. 

One of the AAEHC founders and current Steering Committee co-chair, the Rev. Dr. Alfred A. Moss, Jr., stresses the importance of remembering “those African Americans and non-African Americans whose actions helped to shape the history of race relations in the Episcopal Church. One of the most important ways we remember is to preserve the objects, documents and stories that tell that history.” 

Ten years into the partnership, the collection continues to grow—from acquisitions to the oral history program to outreach. HSEC and VTS have just renewed the joint AAEHC contract for another five-year term. Mitzi J. Budde, D.Min., VTS Professor and Head Librarian and co-chair of the AAEHC Steering Committee, says, “I’m proud of the work of our archivists to build the collection and grateful for the Nancy M. Prichard endowment for the collection. We’re excited about the new research grants project, funded by the Historical Society, which should generate books, articles and online resources to make this collection more widely known.” 

Many individuals, such as the Rt. Rev. Walter Decoster Dennis, the Rev. Canon Thomas W. S. Logan Sr., and the lay theologian Verna Dozier, devoted significant portions of their lives to making the church more inclusive. Their ministries, and many others, can be researched in the AAEHC. For more information, please visit www.vts.edu/aaehc or contact Dr. Joseph Downing Thompson, assistant archivist for the AAEHC, at jthompson@vts.edu or 703-461-1732. 


Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women, representing more than 40 different dioceses and nine different countries, for service in the Church, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Visit us online at www.vts.edu.