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National and State Registers of Historic Places

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Picture of property 401 Yuma Street
Manhattan (Riley County)
Listed in National Register May 30, 2012

Architect: unknown
Category: religious facility
Thematic Nomination: African American Resources in Manhattan, KS

The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church building is significant for its role in the development of the African American community in Manhattan. Like the Second Baptist Church, the AME church was one of the key community organizations in Manhattan, serving not only the religious needs of its members, but also the greater community by hosting education, social and charitable activities. The original congregation was organized in 1879, the same year that a number of African American refugees arrived in Manhattan as part of the Great Exodus from former Southern slave states. As the congregation grew in size and prominence, they built a second frame church in 1916, and were able to build this brick building in 1927. The church is the oldest existing African American congregation in Manhattan, and in cooperation with Manhattan's other black churches, members of Bethel took leadership roles in civil rights activities in the community. Although membership dwindled to as low as five members in the late 20th century, the determination of those remaining members have kept the congregation and church in operation through today.

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