A Brief History of The Christian Recorder

The Christian Recorder is the oldest existing periodical published by African-Americans in the United States whose existence dated before the Civil War. It had its genesis in The Christian Herald, which was established by the General Conference that was held in Philadelphia in 1848. Founded by Rev. Augustus R. Green in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Christian Herald was published weekly with subscribers paying one dollar and fifty cents a year.

The name of The Christian Herald was changed to The Christian Recorder at the Ninth Quadrennial Session of the General Conference held in 1852 in New York City. The first issue was published and disseminated on July 1, 1852. The first editor of The Christian Recorder was the Reverend M. M. Clark, who was one of the first college graduates in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Clark was a graduate of Jefferson College and was considered to be one of the best-educated men in the A.M.E. Church. He wrote that the Recorder’s focus would be religion, morality, science and literature and it was to treat all geographical areas of the A.M.E. Church equally.

In 1864 John M. Brown was elected to succeed Elisha Weaver as editor but declined to serve due to his missionary duties in the wartime south. He was later elected and consecrated as the 11th bishop of the A.M.E. Church.

In its early days, The Christian Recorder focused on religious news, but much of the paper was devoted to secular news. Articles were written about education, voting rights, equality, and other secular issues that affected the lives of black Americans. The Christian Recorder was a forum to discuss slavery, classism, as well as racism. Articles were written by black women and about black women, and the paper also addressed issues related to families.

The Christian Recorder has been a faithful voice for the disenfranchised and the oppressed.  It was a strong and vocal opponent of slavery and repeatedly addressed the biblical and moral issues of slavery while encouraging black consciousness. Following the Civil War, The Christian Recorder encouraged its readers to be diligent in protecting their families from whites who wanted to harm the newly freed slaves and regularly addressed the issue of families separated by the evils of slavery and published articles that tried to give information that would aid in the reuniting of family members. During Reconstruction, it advocated education for all citizens and was an activist for higher education and especially for an educated ministry. Throughout the 20th century, The Christian Recorder spoke against ills affecting persons of African descent globally ranging from colonialism to lynching.

The Western and Southern Christian Recorder were established because the Church was growing and the constituents in the West and the South wanted more news about their regions. A woman, M. A. McCurdy, served as the editor of the Southern Christian Recorder.  In 1886, Bishop Henry McNeil Turner founded the Southern Christian Recorder. Editors who served include Bradwell, R. M. Cheeks, G. E. Taylor, M. S. Bryant, G. W. Allen, J. H. Claybourne, E. C. Hatcher, and S. L. Jones. The Western Christian Recorder came into existence at the General Conference in Columbus, Ohio in 1892. Dr. J. Frank McDonald was its first editor. Other editors include Dr. J. D. Barksdale and Dr. J. H. Wilson.

In 1952, the General Conference in Nashville, Tennessee joined the Southern Christian Recorder and Western Christian Recorder to create the Southwestern Christian Recorder. Also, publication of The Christian Recorder moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Nashville, Tennessee. In 1960, the General Conference in Los Angeles, California combined the Southwestern Christian Recorder and The Christian Recorder to form The AME Christian Recorder.   In 1984, the official registration of the paper reverted to its current (and original) name, The Christian Recorder.  

The Christian Recorder continues to serve the African Methodist Episcopal Church in local communities and around the world in 39 countries on five continents with a robust print and online presence.

Editors of The Christian Recorder

1. Molliston Madison Clark 1852-1854
2. Jabez Pitts Campbell (8th Bishop) 1854-1860
3. Elisha Weaver 1861-1864
4. *Anthony L. Stanford 1861
5. James Lynch 1866-1867
6. Elisha Weaver 1867-1868
7. Benjamin Tucker Tanner (18th Bishop) 1868-1884
8. Benjamin Franklin Lee (20th Bishop) 1884-1892
9. Henry Theodore Johnson 1892-1909
10. Richard Robert Wright, Jr. (57th Bishop) 1909-1936
11. George Arnett Singleton 1936-1944
12. David Norris 1944-1950
13. Fred Hughes 1950-1960
14. Benjamin Julius Nolen, Sr. 1960-1964
15. Lawrence Sylvester Odom, Sr. 1964-1966
16. Benjamin Julius Nolen, Sr. 1966-1973
17. A. Lewis Williams 1973-1976
18. Robert H. Reid, Jr. 1976-1996
19. Ricky Spain 1996-2004
20. Calvin H. Sydnor, III 2004- 2016
21. John Thomas III, 2016-present

* Anthony L. Stanford served several months during Elisha Weaver’s tenure.

(revised 9/2016)

Selected Books about The Christian Recorder

Bailey, Julius Race Patriotism: Protest and Print Culture in the A.M.E. Church

Gardner, Eric Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African-American Literature, and Periodical Culture

Williams, Gilbert Anthony The Christian Recorder, newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church: a history of a forum for ideas, 1854-1902.

Archival Research

Institutions with repositories of The Christian Recorder include:

Mother Bethel AME Church

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Payne Theological Seminary

Hampton University

Virtual Archives of The Christian Recorder from 2004-2016

Requests for more information on archives of The Christian Recorder should be made to the Executive Director of the Department of Research and Scholarship of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. Teresa Fry Brown (AMECHistoryinthemaking@yahoo.com).

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