Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. was founded in 1827 by a group of blacks who desired an integrated church environment. It is the oldest black church in the city. The congregation was originally on Capitol Hill, but the white members kept themselves segregated. When the church opened its doors in 1897, it marked the opening of D.C.’s first publicly financed school for black children. One of the teachers was Emma V. Brown, who is credited with being the first African American public school teacher in Washington D.C. Ms. Brown was paid an annual salary of $400 by the District of Columbia.
The original church was founded in 1805 with 61 white members and 25 black members. While it was a place of worship, there were still segregated practices, like separate entrances for blacks, and pastors refusing to hold black babies during baptism. Blacks were required to sit in the balconies of the church, which soon became overcrowded.
Fed up with the segregationist practices, the black members left in 1827 to start Little Ebenezer Methodist Church. A small building that could hold the growing number of black Methodists was built at 400 D St. NE. In 1864, Reverend Noah Jones took the pulpit as Little Ebenezer’s first black minister.
That same year, Little Ebenezer began the first publicly funded school for black children. The school was paid for with government funds until May 1865. Emma Brown took over as one of two teachers at Little Ebenezer’s school.
In 1870, the larger church, which would be called Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church, was built but was destroyed by a storm 26 years later. In 1897, Ebenezer United Methodist Episcopal Church was erected on the grounds.
This year, the Ebenezer United Methodist Church will celebrate its 175th anniversary. The church has been named a historical landmark.