The Old Ship A.M.E. Zion Church, the oldest Black Church in the City of Montgomery, had its beginning with a frame building 60 feet long by 45 feet wide with galleries on each side at the rear. The Court Street Methodist Church. south (now First United Methodist of Cloverdale), gave Black people of Montgomery and Vicinity this building in 1852. Resourceful Black slaves, Sol Brock, Solomon Hannon and Emanuel Noble, helped a freed Black contractor, Thomas Wilson, roll the church on logs to its present location of Holcome Street near Mildred Street.
It is reported that someone asked the men engaged in logging the church down the street. “What are you going to name the church?” The answer was, ‘ The Old Ship of Zion,’ so it was named and the name “Old Ship Methodist Church” was incorporated on June 30, 1898. The building was remodeled in 1888 and in 1918-1920, it was reconstructed in the classical revival style. For the first ten years, the Old Ship Church was served by white ministers and presiding elders (district superintendents).
The first Black minister was Rev. Allen Hannon, who beginning in 1862.served eight years. After that time, 33 pastors have served Old Ship Reverends R. S. Evans, Wilbur Strong, Joseph Gomez, C. C. Petty, J. W. Alstork, R. R. Morns, A. J. Rodgers, W. H. Smith, J. H. Manley, F. R. White, T. A. Weathington, C. H. Smith, E. P. Mayo, W. A. Blackwell, W. L. Hamblin, W. W. Matthews, W. A. Witherspoon, J. B. Holmes, H. L. Holt, M. F. Gregory, W. A. Stewart, S. H. Marion, D. C. Pope, J. Van Catledge, W. J. Powell, E. McClain, H. Melvin, N. H. Hicklin, C. T. Walker, Sr., R. L. Perry, Sr., Wallace L. Noble, Jerry Jones, Rev. Kathy Thomas McFadden is now serving as pastor.
The organization of the National W.H.O.M Society of the A.M.E. Zion Church (1880), the meeting (1887) in which it was decided to move State Normal (now Alabama State University) from Marion to Montgomery, and the first graduation exercises of that school (1888), all took place here. Old Ship soon became one of the centers of the cultural and religious life of Black people in the State of Alabama, and its reputation became nation wide. Many immortal personalities paraded across the rostrum and spoke from the pulpit of this church. The Honorable Frederick Douglas, Dr. Joseph Charles Price, Senator Blanche K.Bruce, Dr. Booker T. Washington, Dr. R. R. Moton, Governor of the State of Alabama, President William McKinley are just a few such persons. During the civil rights movement, public meetings and organizational meetings were held in the church. The church served also as the set for a religious film “Sister. Sister.” Written by Maya Angelou, the film featured Dianne Carroll, Irene Cara, the late Rosalind Cash, and members of the Old Ship congregation. who appeared as extras. The present beautiful, commodious building, the fourth ever-enlarging structure to grace this sacred spot, is today a monument to the courageous, devoted souls of the past and a source of inspiration and constant challenge to the noblest in religious and culture.