The First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church is the oldest, and one of the largest African American congregations in Los Angeles, California. Bridget (Biddy) Mason founded the church in 1872. As the congergation grew the church moved into a succession of homes: 10th and Georgia; 1st and Main; San Pedro Street; and finally on Azusa Street, its last site before the 8th and South Towne church. The First A.M.E. Church now meets at 2270 South Harvard Avenue in Sugar Hill in a 1968 building designed by Paul R. Williams.
The First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church is
the oldest, and one of the largest African American congregations in Los
Angeles, California. Bridget (Biddy) Mason founded the church in 1872. Biddy Mason was born
a slave on August 15, 1818, probably in Georgia, but maybe Mississippi. After
an arduous 1848 journey to the Utah Territory and then to Los Angeles three
years later, Biddy and her three daughters were given their freedom in an 1856
Mason organized the first FAME meeting in her own home. The
church had a humble beginning with only twelve people in attendance. The meeting
stayed rather small until meetings moved to another member’s home. By the 1880’s
the FAME church started becoming more popular, especially with middle class
African American families.
The first permanent church building was established in
1903, its gothic style architecture became a landmark in the community. In 1915,
the congregation split after an AME bishop removed the Reverend Napoleon P
Greggs. Although this was a major setback, the church bounced back with the
leadership of Reverend J. Logan Craw.
In the 1960’s the church moved, because the area around the
church was becoming industrialized. In 1968, The First A.M.E. Church moved to its current location at
2270 South Harvard Boulevard in Southwest Los Angeles. The number of active
members increased drastically under the leadership of Reverend Cecil L. Murray.
The active membership of the church as right under 200 members when he first
arrived in 1977. By the time he retired in 2004, the church grew to over 18,000
members. During this time, the FAME church was revitalized and placed a greater
emphasis on social welfare.
Today, the church
has over 19,000 members, and the church continues its social work to this day
and it is estimated that the church spends over 2 million dollars each year, supporting
over 40 community programs. These programs provide housing and food for the
homeless, legal assistance for the poor, and several youth programs.