The African Methodist Episcopal Church grew out of a protest by Richard Allen against racial discrimination in St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, in 1787. Rather than suffer indignities in that White-controlled church, Allen formed a separate Black congregation. In 1816 he organized several Black Methodist congregations into a new denomination called the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In the tense times leading to the Civil War, the AME Church was not permitted to operate in Texas, or in most other parts of the slaveholding South.
The first African Methodist Episcopal Church missionary in Texas, M. M. Clark, arrived in Galveston in 1866, after the surrender of the Confederacy and the end of slavery. Like African Methodist missionaries elsewhere in the former slave states, Clark wanted to organize Black Methodists. Although Texas had had no AME congregations previously, many Black Methodists had worshipped in the Methodist churches of their masters. Clark intended to bring them into the AME Church and to recruit others to Methodism. The congregations that he and other missionaries organized were originally supervised by Bishop Jabez P. Campbell from New Orleans.
A meeting to organize an annual conference in Texas took place in Galveston, probably in 1867. (Administrative and doctrinal matters for the church as a whole are attended to in general conferences held every four years. Annual conferences handle church affairs within states.) On October 22, 1868, the first Texas conference met in Galveston, presided over by Bishop James A. Shorter. Among those present were the early leaders of African Methodism in Texas, Houston Reedy (see REEDY CHAPEL AME CHURCH), Steven Patton, Emmanuel Hammitt, and Johnson Reed. The conference claimed 3,000 members and probationers that year, and membership grew steadily though not spectacularly afterward. By 1890 membership in Texas had reached 23,000, and by 1926 it had reached 34,000, ranking second to Baptists among Black churchgoers.
In the early years of the Texas Conference most member churches were located within a triangle formed by Galveston, Bryan, and San Antonio. Eventually, however, the number of AME members in Texas increased and spread across the state. The West Texas Conference was organized in 1875 and the Central Texas Conference in 1883. The church had four conferences by 1890 and nine by 1926.
The Texas Conference founded Paul Quinn College in the Metropolitan AME Church in Austin in 1872. The school was later moved to Waco. In addition to its religious functions, the African Methodist Church has helped Blacks maintain a sense of community and provided them with a place to express their demands for civil rights.