Christian Fiction and African Methodist Episcopal Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded by Richard Allen in 1816. The following year the Church organized the A.M.E. Publishing House as the publication extension of the denomination. The A.M.E. Church produced dozens of books, periodicals, and reports during the nineteenth century including the Doctrines and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (1817), the A.M.E. Church Review, and the Christian Recorder newspaper. Several thousand issues of the Christian Recorder were published each week providing African American Methodists with a public forum to discuss topics on church history, theology, and ecclesiastical law. The newspaper also addressed social issues of the nineteenth century and published several stories of fiction including Minnie’s Sacrifice (1869) and Silas Craig (1889).
From March 20 to September 25, 1869, the Christian Reporter published a serial titled Minnie’s Sacrifice by E. W. Harper, a noted African American author, abolitionist, and women’s rights advocate. Harper published stories in the Anglo-African Magazine and later produced her first novel Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted (1892). Minnie’s Sacrifice is the story of two characters, Minnie and Louis, who are both the children of biracial parents. In the story, the two characters are adopted by white parents and must decide whether to remain in their state of social privilege or claim their African American heritage. The serial was one of the first examples of an African American woman writer publishing a story for African American readers of the Christian Recorder.
Benjamin Franklin Lee
Between February 21 and July 11, 1889, the Christian Recorder published a serial titled Silas Craig by author King D. Patton. Reverend Benjamin Franklin Leewas editor of the newspaper at the time of the serial’s publication. Lee graduated from Wilberforce University and became an elder in the A.M.E. Church in 1872. In 1876, Lee served as president of Wilberforce, in 1884 became editor of the Christian Recorder, and in 1892, was elected a bishop of the A.M.E. Church. Lee died in 1926. Silas Craig is a twenty-chapter serial about an African American man riddled by the vices of alcoholism and gambling. While attending church services, Craig converts to Christianity and decides to choose a moral path for his life. Near the conclusion, Craig becomes a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.