The land on which the church stands was once owned by a freed slave named Harriston Stearns, whose owner's widowed wife deeded him the property in 1867. Harrison then donated this portion of the land to Burns Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded in 1867. Harrison became one of the first three freedmen to serve as alderman in Oxford in 1870.
A white frame building was constructed on the land after it was acquired by the church. However, by 1910 the church had outgrown the structure and was in need of a larger facility. The church congregation came together to fund and construct a new church building. Some members of the church mortgaged their homes to donate to the project, while others volunteered their time to assist with construction.
The congregation remained in the church it constructed in 1910 until 1974, when it moved to a new building. Before being acquired by the foundation, it was last owned by author John Grisham. He agreed to sell the building to the foundation in 2002, thereby saving it from demolition.