Founded in 1924, Saint Paul African Union Methodist Protestant Church is the first and only church in DC that evolved from what is considered the oldest incorporated, independent African American denomination in the country. The AUMP Church was incorporated in 1813, three years before the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
The Saint Paul congregation is believed to have originated in a prayer group that formed around 1900 and called itself the "Union Band" because its members included both Methodists and Baptists.
During its early years, the Union Band met at the 1308 Linden Court, NE, home of Sadona Miles, the congregation's treasurer and a major figure in its early growth.
In 1906 the group elected John Wesley Manokey as "First Captain" and Fred Warren as "Second Captain." Manokey, who was born in Anne Arundel County in 1881 but living in DC and working as a laborer in various government agencies by 1900, became the key organizer and longtime minister of Saint Paul Church.
By 1908 the group had grown too large to meet in members' homes, and it rented a house at 817 Second Street, SE, in one of Washington's most industrial neighborhoods, for its first church.
The congregation moved three more times before, in 1924, settling on the current name and moving into the current building at 401 I Street, SE, which was designed by Romulus Cornelius (R.C.) Archer, Jr. (1890-1968), as his first major commission.
Archer had first practiced in Norfolk, Virginia, but moved to Washington to become one of two African American architects in the Office of the Supervising Architect, U.S. Treasury Department. He soon left, however, to form a solo practice and in 1926 became the second African American architect to be registered in DC (after John A. Lankford).
Saint Paul AUMP Church is the only surviving house of worship from the predominantly African American community located between the Capitol and the Navy Yard. Most of this northern Navy Yard neighborhood, which started developing in the early 19th century, was razed in the late 1930s and early 1940s and replaced with public housing and later the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.
More on the History of the African United Methodist Protestant Church
The AUMP church was founded primarily by Peter Spencer (1779-1843), who was born enslaved in Kent County, Maryland. After he was legally freed, Spencer moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where he worked as a mechanic and became active in the white-run Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church. That church's style of worship was non-participatory and hierarchical, and it also practiced segregation, effectively limiting the ability of African Americans to worship. Eventually Spencer and others left and in June 1813 established the "African Union Church" or the "Union Church of African Members," incorporating in Wilmington. In 1814 the church established the Big or August Quarterly, which has become the oldest, continuously celebrated black religious festival in the country.