Remembering our history: first African-American Church

Black History Month
Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 6:58 PM CST
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) -In 1953, the first African American church was built on the corner of N. Curtis and W. Eighth Street and called St. Mary’s Methodist-Episcopal Church (St. Mary’s AME). Newspaper clippings from that time show that the church’s members worshiped at the Salvation Army outpost before the building was constructed. Churches in the area volunteered to help fund the building cost. One article wrote that the First Evangelical Lutheran Church asked their congregation for contributions.

“We didn’t really know about St. Mary African Methodist Episcopal Church,” said Lincoln County Historical Museum Curator Director Jim Griffin. “It came to light of the Brown-Harano collection. From there were able to do some research in the old newspapers to learn more about it.”

At the time of St. Mary’s AME open house, reports indicate the church had roughly eighteen people in its congregation. The church was considered predominately African American, but it was open to all races and ethnicities. Photos obtained during that time show the church was integrated.

“There is an important role that every group played in the development of North Platte and Lincoln County,” said Griffin. “If you don’t study them all, you only have a part of the history and you won’t know why things were the way they were.”

North Platte’s history runs deep from the Canteen district to the bricks downtown and now the first African American church in our community. These stories from the past are preserved from generation to generation, but there are times history can be lost until it is found again.

Local historians encourage members of the community who remember any stories about North Platte history to share them with the Lincoln County Historical Museum.

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