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First Black Minister to Preach at Old North

In a July 1833 issue of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, a notice announced that Rev. William Levington would speak at Old North later that month. Levington was the rector of the St. James’ First African Protestant Episcopal Church, a church he founded in 1824 as one of the first Black Episcopal churches in the South. He himself was only the third Black man to be ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in America. 

His visit to Old North was part of a speaking tour to raise money to pay off his church’s debt. The church was for worship and also served as a school for Black children in Baltimore, at a time when Maryland prohibited Black children from attending public schools. 

According to The Liberator, Levington was invited to speak by several Boston ministers, Rev. William Croswell of Old North and former Old North rector, Rev. Asa Eaton. The notice also included a jarring detail. Even though the guest speaker was an esteemed Black minister, people of color in the audience had to sit in the gallery.