Old Ship A.M.E. Zion Church

AME Zion Church…at 483 Holcombe Street, is home to the oldest African American congregation in our city, and deep within the structure is a part that qualifies as the oldest surviving church building in Montgomery. The church was planted by Court Street Methodist in 1850, and soon thereafter was offered the 1835 wood frame building then being used by Court Street, provided they would move it off the site. The main part of the frame structure was moved up the hill by the freedmen on log rollers; legend has it that a bystander of the moving process asked, “What are you moving?” and one of the laborers responded, “The old ship of Zion is moving on”, whence came the name. The Church prospered and was remodeled and enlarged in 1888 and 1920, until it looked like this. This church was influential in the 1887 moving of State Normal School from Marion to Montgomery, thence to become Alabama State University. The first graduation exercise of Alabama State was held here. President Wm. McKinley spoke here in 1898. By 1900 Holcombe had become a prosperous neighborhood; my mother-in-law –and her brother Charlie Parker- grew up on Holcombe just a block or two away. The building was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1990.

-Charles Humphries

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