The mission of the African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC), a joint project of VTS and The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, is to collect and preserve the stories, experiences, and perspectives of Black Episcopalians. The AAEHC gathers letters, journals, photographs, sermons, oral histories, writings, records, and similar materials from Black individuals and organizations and others working with people of African descent in the Episcopal Church. To support and encourage use of the collection, the AAEHC offers travel grants annually.
The AAEHC is home to dozens of different collections, from the personal papers of prominent Black Episcopalians to recorded oral histories and everything in-between. These collections include photographs, videos, letters, diaries, sermons, and much more. Some collections are quite large, and some are smaller, but each one offers a unique insight to the history of African Americans in the Episcopal Church. All are welcome to conduct research in the AAEHC.
The AAEHC is a cooperative effort of The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church and the Bishop Payne Library here at Virginia Theological Seminary. The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church was founded in 1910 to further the understanding of church history among those interested in the Episcopal Church. The Historical Society publishes a journal (Anglican and Episcopal History), promotes the preservation of Episcopal and Anglican Church history, and organizes historical conferences. Members of the Historical Society began to discuss the possibility of the African American Episcopal Historical Collection in the 1990s and to gather materials for the collection in 2000.
In December 2002, the Historical Society and the Virginia Theological Seminary agreed jointly to sponsor the AAEHC. VTS, which is the second oldest and largest of the Episcopal seminaries in the United States, has had a long-standing interest in ministry by and among African Americans. From 1878 through 1949, the Bishop Payne Divinity School in Petersburg, Virginia, was the primary institution for the education of African American candidates for Episcopal ministry. Bishop Payne Divinity School merged with Virgnia Theological Seminary in 1953. The VTS library was later named Bishop Payne Library in honor and memory of the former divinity school.
Oral History Program
The AAEHC actively conducts pertinent oral history interviews to document the lives and experiences of Black Episcopalians in the first person. If you know of subjects and are interested in contributing to the AAEHC Oral History Program by conducting interviews, please see the program Guidelines and contact AAEHC staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are grateful to the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church for its annual contributions in support of the oral history program.
Access the AAEHC Oral Histories Collection.
Travel Grant Program
Thanks to a generous grant from the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, travel reimbursement grants are available to individuals who would like to use the AAEHC for research. Faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, independent researchers, and Episcopal clergy and laypersons are encouraged to apply. Funds may be used for transportation, meals, lodging, photocopying, and other research costs. Contact the AAEHC staff at email@example.com with any questions.
Travel Grant Forms
AAEHC Travel Grant Program Brochure (2023)
AAEHC Travel Grant Application (2023-2024)