Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was the first black church in New
Mexico and was organized during the state’s territorial period. Although New Mexico Territory had a few slaves
before the Civil War, African Americans began arriving in the region in
significant numbers after the conflict. By the 1870s several Buffalo Soldier units were
stationed in the Territory. By the 1880s
they were joined by coal miners, ranch hands, and settlers who had established
a foothold around Albuquerque.
Grant Chapel AME Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico
1882 William Slaughter, Allen Carter, and Edward Clark organized the New Mexico
Colored Religious Society which the following year became the Colored Methodist
Mission. The Mission was located in a
small wood-frame structure at the rear of the lot at 201 1st
Street, SW. Later that year (1883) the
New Mexico Township donated land to the Mission and church congregants moved
their small structure to the two donated lots in West Albuquerque at the
corner of Coal Avenue and Third Street.
The Mission was renamed the Coal Avenue
Methodist Church. The Reverend
Spotworth Rice served as the first minister. In 1892 a brick church was built under the
leadership of Reverend Matthew Jones.
July 1905 the name of the church was changed to Grant Chapel African Methodist
Episcopal Church in honor of Bishop Alexander Grant, a former Florida slave who
escaped and joined the Union Army and then returned to Florida after the Civil
War to preach and teach. After serving at churches in Texas,
Grant was named an AME Bishop in 1888 and served in that capacity until 1911.
member Rena Paris-Bendaw attended the church during its years on Coal Avenue. She recalled the church as being like an extended family; her mother, one of the ushers, encouraged her to become
an usher herself and to “greet worshipers with a smile to set the tone.”
the years the church grew in membership and community outreach. In 1952 the church moved to 409 Santa Fe SE.
During the civil
rights era, the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP—as well as the Urban
League and National Council of Negro Women chapters—met at the
church. These groups often raised money
to support the activities of civil rights organizations in the South while
explaining those activities and goals to the larger New Mexico community.
1990, Grant Chapel moved to its present location at 1720 Claremont NE. The church is part of the AME’s Desert
Mountain Conference and is connected to ministries in other states and in
Canada, Bermuda, and Africa. Grant Chapel AME, with approximately
250 parishioners today, continues to provide religious and social networks for
African Americans throughout Albuquerque and Northern New Mexico. Rev. John D. Hill is the current pastor.