Black History: Special Delivery!!

wilberforce university
Wilberforce University before the Civil War

Daniel A. Payne (1811-1893) was a religious leader, teacher, author, historian, and college president. Payne was a staunch advocate of education and training of ministers. Payne became the 6th bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1852. He would the position for more than 40 years. Payne was also a co-founder of Wilberforce University in 1856. In 1856, the AME Church purchased the college and selected Payne as its president. Payne was the first African American college president in the United States. He served in the role until 1877.

Payne was born to free black parents, London and Martha Payne, in Charleston, SC. When he was 4 years old, his father passed away. His mother then passed away when he was 9. Payne was raised his great aunt, Sarah Bordeaux. Payne attended school and also received private tutoring. He held a number of jobs as a young boy and teenager including shoe merchant, carpenter, and tailor. He would eventually become a teacher and opened a school for black children in 1829, when he was just 19 years old. His school was forced to close in 1835 when laws were enacted making education of blacks illegal. After the school closed, Payne enrolled in a Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, PA. He was ordained as the first African American minister in the Lutheran Church in 1839. He later joined the AME Church in 1841. Payne published a history of the AME church in 1848. In 1853 Payne was elected as the 6th bishop of the AME Church. The denomination grew tremendously under his leadership; establishing hundreds of new congregations and expanding foreign missions. Payne was elected president of Wilberforce University in 1856. Wilberforce is the oldest, private historically black college in the U.S.  The university remains open today as 4 year liberal arts institution. Wilberforce operates a theological seminary which is named after Payne. Payne died in 1893.

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