History of Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church

Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church had its beginnings as a prayer

movement in 1866, in the homes of the forefathers of some present day

members. This movement was organized into an A.M.E. Church in the basement

of the Albert Hotel in Selma.

Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church was admitted into the A.M.E. Connection in 1867.

The first frame structure was erected on the present site in 1869 and re-erected

in 1908. It is the only building remaining of the work of A.J. Farley, an early 20th

Century, Black builder from Dallas County.

During the 1960's the church became known throughout the world for it role in

the Voting Rights Movement, that brought about the "Bloody Sunday"

confrontation with state and local law enforcement , and the subsequent march

from the church to the state capitol in Montgomery.

Mass meetings were held in black churches during this Movement, to organize,

create unity and work toward a common goal which was the right to vote.

Alabama Governor George C. Wallace then ordered the courts to issue an

injunction to prohibit mass meetings in Black churches. The injunction, issued by

Judge Hare stopped the civil rights activities in Selma for a while. However Brown

Chapel Pastor P.H. Lewis, with the agreement from Bishop l.H. Bonner, opened

the doors of Brown Chapel again. From that time, Brown Chapel became the

primary site for mass meetings. In addition, the pastor and congregation

provided shelter for many participants in the Movement.

On March 7, 1965, at noon on a sacred communion Sunday, a small group of souls

arose from the pews and gathered on the steps of Brown Chapel to begin the

march to Montgomery.

Led by now Congressman John Lewis, they marched in protest to the foot of the

Edmund Pettus Bridge. They were met on the other side of the bridge and

violently stopped by sheriff's deputies and state troopers. Tear gas, billy clubs

and dogs were used against the marchers. Approximately 50 people were

injured, including John Lewis. There was one death. That Sunday became known

as "Bloody Sunday." It is now celebrated annually during the National Voting

Rights Museum's Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

On March 21, 1965, after another failed attempt to reach Montgomery,

thousands, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., rallied and prayed at the same

bridge under the protection of the Alabama National Guard. More than 300

people marched the 47 miles to Montgomery to show their desire for equal v

oting rights.

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights


In 1997 the Selma to Montgomery highway was named by the U.S. Department of

Interior and the U.S. Department of Transportation as a National Historic Trail

with its beginning at the front steps of Brown Chapel church.

In March 1998, Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church was awarded the distinctive status of

a National Historic Landmark for its significant participation in the struggle for

equality and justice for all people.

Today Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church continues to position

itself on the cutting edge of social change and spiritual enrichment. As one of the

most well known citadels in the Christian religion in the world, it is a testimony to

the unwavering faith and undeniable spirit that only almighty God can invoke in

the souls of committed men and women.