Grant 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.
In 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 W est 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.
In 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.
Early 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.”
With 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.
In September 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.