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David Smith, b. 1784 and Daniel Alexander Payne, 1811-1893
Biography of Rev. David Smith of the A. M. E. Church; Being a Complete History, Embracing over Sixty Years' Labor in the Advancement of the Redeemer's Kingdom on Earth. Including "The History of the Origin and Development of Wilberforce University."
Xenia, O[hio]: Printed at the Xenia Gazette Office, 1881.


David Smith was born a slave near Baltimore, Maryland in 1784. Although he belonged to a devout Catholic family, he became a Protestant Christian while still a child. His conversion caused tension in the household, and his master attempted to sell him to a Georgia plantation. Through the benevolence of the housekeeper, who secretly arranged to buy him from the slave trader, Smith was freed when he approximately twelve years old. Although still a young man, Smith began to hold prayer meetings in his home, and became a licensed exhorter. As an adult, Smith became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. However, he became frustrated by its lack of support for black preachers and believers and left to help establish a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Smith traveled in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Kentucky, and Ohio attending conferences and camp meetings to promote the Church's doctrines and establish places of worship for fledgling groups of believers. Smith's narrative focuses on his public service, rather than his personal life, and explains significant events and contributors involved in the expansion of the African Methodist Episcopal movement.

While titled Biography of Rev. David Smith (1881), the main portion of this work contains Smith's autobiography. This autobiography is followed by a brief history of Wilberforce University by Daniel Alexander Payne (1811-1893), who was an African- American educator and minister and who became Wilberforce University's president in 1863. He also served as chancellor and dean of its theological school from 1876 until his death. Payne was a forceful supporter of education within the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and an effective proponent for reforming and standardizing the course of study for AME ministers, which was accepted by the General Conference in 1844. He became an AME bishop and held the position for 41 years.

Wilberforce University in Ohio, acquired by the AME Church in 1863, was the first college to thrive under African-American leadership. Daniel Alexander Payne improved its financial situation, curriculum, reputation, and standards throughout his presidency. His history of the university contains the resolutions relating to its founding, a summary of the early days of its existence, and a description of the fire that destroyed the school building in 1865. The remainder of the history discusses its curriculum, faculty, and administrators.

Works Consulted: Bowden, Henry Warner, Dictionary of American Religious Biography, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993; Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, vol. 17, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Monique Prince

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