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St. John A.M.E. Church of Topeka, Kansas records

Call Number: RH MS 481


The Records of St. John A.M.E. Church of Topeka, Kansas are those of an African American church in Topeka that is one of the oldest African Methodist Episcopal churches in Kansas.


  • Creation: 1877 - 1993


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of St. John A.M.E. Church of Topeka, Kansas

St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church began as a prayer circle in 1868. The prayer circle developed into a Methodist Church Mission, although there was no official denominational connection or affiliation and the Mission had no appointed pastor. The group was incorporated in 1877 as the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Topeka, Kansas; although the church was known as St. John A.M.E. Church from 1878 on, the name was not officially changed until 1972. St. John A.M.E. Church was the second African American church in Topeka, the oldest being the Second Baptist Church founded in 1865.

St. John A.M.E. and other African American churches in Topeka "provided institutional pillars which gave structural support for the Negro community beyond the immediate neighborhood and the sites of original Black settlement in the city. The churches also provided channels for social interaction, social control, and mutual support. In addition, they stood in the breach to protest race interests. As early as 1872-1873, in the campaign against discrimination, St. John A.M.E. and Second Baptist churches had given sanctuary to organized protest; they and other religious institutions would continue to do so in later crises."

The church also provided a training ground for community leaders. Through the early 1890s, St. John A.M.E. had the largest number of, what Thomas C. Cox calls the, "elites and decision makers." Cox goes on to say, "prominence in the church and in social affairs provided a measure of influence in the Black community as a whole."

St. John A.M.E. has also been active in areas of social change and community betterment, collecting food, clothing, and other items for the poor of any denomination. St. John has also followed a tradition of ecumenism in both religious and social events. St. John's choirs, especially, participate in musical concerts and services at other churches and sponsor activities at St. John.


2.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes + 21 volumes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The St. John A.M.E. Church records date from 1877 to 1993, with the bulk of the papers coming from the 1960s to 1980s. The collection is divided into six series: General Records, Board Records, Financial Records, Conference Records, Church Records, and Clubs and Organizations. Folder arrangement within these series is alphabetical.

Oversized materials from the St. John A.M.E. Church Collection are located at RH MS Q146. Bound record books from the collection are located at RH MS E182.

Series List

Arranged in the following series:

General Records, 1877-1993
This series contains a variety of materials about the operation of the church, church membership, and worship services. Within the bound record books, are five volumes of the church log, which includes a brief description of the weather each Sunday, ushers serving that day, the worship service order, new members, attendance, and offerings.
Board Records, 1926-1988
This series offers the best view of the operation of the church. Four different boards are represented within the series. The Official Board consists of all officers of the church (stewards, trustees, and presidents of organizations). The Steward Board oversees the spiritual aspects of the congregation. The Trustee Board oversees the physical aspects of the church and, consequently, financial information is often contained in its records. The records of the Usher Board consist of a list of expenses, such as bulletins and visitor cards, for a nine month period in 1950. Within the bound record books, are six volumes that consist of the minutes of the Official Board and of the Trustee Board. The volumes for the Trustee Board also contain financial information.
Financial Records, 1902-1986
This series provides a good view of the income and expenditures of the church; however, due to various people saving the materials, there are gaps in the types of records saved as will as the years. Financial records are also contained in the Conference Records series, the Church Record Books series, and the Clubs and Organizations series. There are two bound volumes that relate to this series; they consist mainly of listings of Receipts and Expenditures.
Conference Records, 1925-1988
This series includes papers representing four different conferences. The Church Conference includes only the individual congregation, while the District Conference includes all A.M.E. churches within a specficic geographic area. The General Conference includes all A.M.E. churches worldwide and the Quarterly Conference is also a specific congregation with the addition of the District presiding elder. There is only one bound volume included in this series and it includes the minutes from the annual church conference.
Church Records, 1972-1981
Records included in this series are Official Board minutes, Finance Commission minutes and proposed budgets, Church Conference minutes, and Quarterly Conference minutes, questions, and financial reports. Also included is information not necessarily found elsewhere, such as lists of new members, baptisms, accessions or deaths, and weddings. Some of the records have been typed on the record book pages and others have been stapled to the pages.
Clubs and Organizations, 1961-1990
The final series contains minutes, financial records, and programs from church clubs or organizations, including: the choirs, the Fifth District Laymen's Organization, the Fifth District Women's Missionary Society, the Gleaners Club, Patrons and Matrons, the Well Wishers' Group, the Youth and Young Adults, and the Zodiac Circle. The papers of the two Fifth District groups include information general to the district and specifically about the St. John branch. Three church clubs and organizations are represented the bound records that relate to this series: the Peace Makers and the Young Patrons and Matrons, whose volumes contain mostly minutes of meetings, and the Sunday School, the records of which contain attendance and offerings, but not lists of students.

Physical Location

RH MS 481

Physical Location

RH MS Q146

Physical Location

RH MS E182

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, St. John A.M.E. Church/Rev. Lionel Cable, 1987.

Gift, Mary Blackwell, 1989.

Gift, Rev. John A. DeVeaux, Jr., 1993.

Guide to the St. John A.M.E. Church of Topeka, Kansas Collection
St. John A.M.E. Church of Topeka, Kansas records
Finding aid prepared by kdo, 1988, mbw, 2006; revised by eear, 2013; Finding aid encoded by mbw, 2006; revised by mbw, 2009; cmp, 2024
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Support for the processing of this Collection was provided by the Dana and Sue Anderson African American Collecting Program Endowment Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
St. John A.M.E. Church of Topeka, Kansas Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS 481, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States