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Built in 1865, Foster Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has served the community for more than one hundred and fifteen years. Organized by Amanda and Henry Foster and built by free blacks, the church served an African American community that separated from John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in NYC after experiencing discrimination. Foster AME was known as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Escaped slaves attempting to reach Canada or deciding to settle locally were provided with food, shelter and assistance.


  • Foster Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
  • Amanda Foster at age 90

The Foster Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was built in 1865 and is one of the oldest black churches in the county and may be one of the oldest in New York state.

Records show that in 1790 there were 357 “free colored persons” in Westchester County, occupied mostly as farmhands and house servants. This population of free black people increased in the first half of the 19th century as a result of manumission and children born of free blacks. A bill signed by Governor John Jay freed all blacks born in New York State after July 4, 1799, after they followed a period of servitude until they were 28 years of age. Legislation passed in 1809 declared manumitted slaves capable of receiving and holding estates, and all enslaved individuals of New York were freed on July 4, 1827. 

An A.M.E group was organized in Tarrytown in 1860. This denomination was established by free blacks who faced discrimination in seating and receiving the Eucharist in the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City. They decided to separate from John Street, choosing to worship among themselves. When the Tarrytown congregation was established, there were only 178 free blacks in Greenburgh.

This congregation was organized by Henry and Amanda Foster, with members of the White Plains congregation and Reverend Jacob Thomas and Hiram Jimerson. They worshiped through several temporary quarters between 1860 and 1864 until they secured the funds to build a church. Local builder/architect James Bird erected the church at a cost of $9,120.85.

In Tarrytown, the church served the growing black population, assisted newly settled freedmen, and helped escaped slaves fleeing the south. Through its “Committee of Vigilance” the church was involved in the Underground Railway. Members of the church continued to provided food and shelter to fugitive slaves attempting to flee to Canada.

Kennedy, Karen Morey. Foster Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form. Published April 9, 1982.

Williams, Gray. Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County. Elmsford, NY. Westchester County Historical Society, 2003.

Foster Memorial AME Zion Church, nps.gov. Accessed February 12th 2020. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/ny5.htm.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Williams, Gray. Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County. Elmsford, NY. Westchester County Historical Society, 2003.

Williams, Gray. Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County. Elmsford, NY. Westchester County Historical Society, 2003.