Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church Archives

Dates: 1870-2006
Size: 5.5 linear feet
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, 9525 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628
Collection Number 2001/06
Provenance: Donated by Reverend Thomas Higginbothan, pastor of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, December 2000
Access: No restrictions
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is:Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church Archives [Box #, Folder #], Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Processed by: Beth Loch, Harsh Archival Processing Project; supervised by Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project


As the home of Chicago’s oldest African American congregation, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church has a long history of activism in the city’s African American community. The church started in 1844 (only a decade after Chicago incorporated) as a prayer group of seven. The group met regularly in the home of John Day, located at what is now an alley between Randolph and Lake Streets near State Street. In 1846, the ministry moved to an old school house located at State and Madison Streets. As the prayer group grew larger, its members asked the African Methodist Episcopal Church to admit them as a congregation. After being admitted in 1847, they set up shop in downtown Chicago, at the site of the present day Monadnock Building. Thomas Farnsworth was appointed pastor. The members named their church the Quinn Chapel after Bishop Paul William Quinn, an A.M.E. missionary who had established A.M.E. churches in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.

The first congregants of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. were mainly former slaves and strong advocates of the abolition movement. When abolitionists began a mission to aid escaped Southern slaves, the church’s congregants decided to help. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 the church became an important station in the Underground Railroad, a secret network of travel routes and safe houses which were used to guide slaves to free-states in the northern United States and to Canada. Four female members of Quinn Chapel, known as the “Big Four,” acted as conductors for the Underground Railroad, providing fugitive slaves with food, shelter, and other necessities for their journey or for their settlement in Chicago.

In 1871, the chapel was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. The church’s congregants became nomads once again, holding services in a series of temporary locations. In 1891, they purchased a new site on 24th Street and Wabash Avenue, in what became Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. In 1892, the current structure was built at 2401 S. Wabash Avenue in Chicago. The church has contributed significantly to the cultural heritage and visual Gothic style of architecture prominent in Chicago in the 1800s. The exterior was designed by Henry F. Starbuck, and the interior by Charles H. McAfee. The Joint Commission on Landmarks designated Quinn Chapel to its National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

The church continued to be a center for African American activism in Chicago. In 1893, abolitionist Frederick Douglass addressed an audience of 1,500 at the church on the significance of Haiti, a predominantly black nation which had gained its independence through a slave revolt. Quinn Chapel was also instrumental in founding Bethel A.M.E. Church, Elam House, and Provident Hospital. Provident Hospital was the first African American owned hospital in the United States.

In the early 20th century, the Bronzeville neighborhood became a booming center for African American owned business. As one of the meeting places of the neighborhood and because of the congregation’s significant role in the abolition movement, Quinn Chapel became a speaking platform for activists looking to reach the city’s African American population. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, and W.E.B. Du Bois are just a few of the figures who spread their message from the Quinn Chapel pulpit.

The political impact of Quinn Chapel is seen in the career of Reverend Archibald J. Carey, Sr. In 1898 Carey moved north to pastor Quinn Chapel from Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a strong reputation as both a talented preacher and speaker. Although Reverend Carey, Sr. stepped down as pastor at Quinn Chapel in 1904, he maintained political connections with the Republican Party for which he frequently campaigned. Reverend Carey, Sr. was mostly identified with powerful Republican Mayor Bill Thompson who was elected with Carey’s support in 1915. Thompson appointed Carey as the Chief Examiner of Claims for the city of Chicago. He was also appointed to the Chicago Civil Service Commission where he used his influence to promote hiring of African American police officers. Rev. Archibald J. Carey, Sr.’s son (Archibald J. Carey, Jr.) would follow in his father’s footsteps to become pastor at Quinn Chapel in 1949.

More recently, the church has played host to various community, political, and social events. Quinn Chapel hosted the premier performance of Wynton Marsalis’ “Mass,” and presented WTTW’s “Patti LaBelle’s Going Home to Gospel.” Mayor Richard M. Daley, Congressmen Danny K. Davis, Bobby Rush, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Governor Pat Quinn, and President Barack Obama have stood at Quinn Chapel’s pulpit. Milton Olive III, posthumous recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and for whom Olive-Harvey College is named, was a member and a regular attendee of services at Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church.



Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church Archives documents the history of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church. It includes ledgers, correspondence, newspaper articles, financial documents, programs, a lecture by Martin Luther King Jr. on audiocassette, speeches, a participation certificate, an anniversary book, and photographs.

This collection is arranged into four series: “Administrative Materials,” “Quinn Chapel Events,” “Reverend Archibald J. Carey Jr.”, and “Photographs.” Each series is arranged alphabetically or chronologically depending upon the nature of the materials.

Series 1: Administrative Materials, 1901-1959

“Administrative Materials” is separated into two subseries: “Ledgers from Board of Trustees, Senior Usher Board, and Sunday School” and “Correspondence and Financial Records.” Ledgers, correspondence, and a mortgage check are housed in this series.

Subseries 1: Ledgers from Board of Trustees, Senior Usher Board, and Sunday School, 1907-1959

This subseries contains nine ledgers documenting monthly board meetings, Sunday school attendance, and financial contributions of church members. The Sunday school ledgers list the teacher’s addresses and names of their students. The Trustee Board ledgers contain the meeting minutes of their monthly meetings. The Senior Usher Board ledgers contain meeting minutes from their monthly meetings and the financial contributions from individual church members. This subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries 2: Correspondence and Financial Records, 1901, 1923

This subseries includes two fundraising letters; a letter sent from Quinn Chapel Kindergarten Association and a letter sent to the church from the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations. Also included is a mortgage payment check from1923. This subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series 2: Quinn Chapel Events, 1893-2006

“Quinn Chapel Events” is arranged into two subseries: “Anniversary Book and Related Material" and “Church Programs and Audiotape of Lecture.” The series contains materials related to events at Quinn Chapel. The materials regarding the church’s anniversaries and programs are included in this series.

Subseries 1: Anniversary Book and Related Materials, 1893-1997

This subseries consists of materials related to the celebration of Quinn Chapel anniversaries. It includes news clippings, a Quinn Chapel Beacon program, an anniversary committee certificate of participation, the 120th Anniversary Record, a ticket to the Underground Railroad exhibit which was a fundraiser for the 150th anniversary, a history of the stewardess and deaconess home, an 1893 Daily Inter Ocean article on Provident Hospital, and correspondence regarding Quinn Chapel history. This subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries 2: Church Programs and Audiotape of Lecture, 1893-2006

Programs from events at Quinn Chapel, event planning correspondence, event newspaper clippings, and an audiocassette of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 lecture at Quinn Chapel are included in this subseries. The recording is of poor quality and often undecipherable. The subseries arrangement is chronological.

Series 3: Reverend Archibald J. Carey Jr., 1952-1965

Archibald James Carey Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father when he became pastor of Quinn Chapel in 1949. Archibald Carey Jr. (1908-1981) was born in Chicago to Elizabeth and Archibald Carey Senior. Carey Jr. graduated from Wendell Philips High School and in 1928 he received his Bachelor’s degree from the Lewis Institute of Chicago. He went on to Northwestern University where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree; he then completed his law degree at Kent College of Law. Archibald Carey, Jr. served as pastor of Quinn Chapel and was also the Third Ward alderman and a partner in the law firm of Prescott, Taylor, Carey and Cooper. Carey was a founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.). In 1967 Carey Jr. became a judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County and stepped down from his position as minister of Quinn chapel. He was then appointed Pastor Emeritus.

The series contains speeches given by Rev. Carey Jr.; his correspondence, including his letters to and from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and the Illinois House of Representatives Resolution Number 225, which details Archibald Jr. Carey’s Jr.’s lifetime achievements. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series 4: Photographs, circa 1870, 1969

This series includes a portrait photograph of Joanna Huss Hall and Abraham Thompson Hall; a photograph of Mr. Pollard, who wrote Quinn Chapel’s history; a photograph of Reverend Jesse Jackson speaking at Quinn Chapel May 1969, and three unidentified photographs. Two of the unidentified photographs are individuals and the third is a group meeting. This series is arranged alphabetically.


Related materials at the Chicago Public Library include:

Related materials at other institutions include:

  • Archibald J. Carey Papers at the Chicago History Museum


Series 1: Administrative Materials, 1901-1959

Subseries 1. Ledgers from Board of Trustees, Senior Usher Board, and Sunday School, 1907-1959

Box 1 Folder 1 Sunday School Record, 1907
Box 1 2 Sunday School Record, 1907-1908
Box 1 3 Sunday School Record, 1910-1911
Box 1 4 Trustee Board Ledger, 1910-1920
Box 1 5 Trustee Board Ledger, 1922-1929
Box 1 6 Senior Usher Board’s Ledger , 1933-1948
Box 1 7 Senior Usher Board’s Ledger , 1938-1954
Box 1 8 Senior Usher Board’s Ledger , 1939-1945
Box 2 Folder 1 Senior Usher Board’s Ledger, 1953-1959
See oversized box 4

Subseries 2. Correspondence and Financial Records, 1901, 1923

Box 2 Folder 2 Kindergarten Association Fundraising Letter, 1901
Box 2 3 Mortgage Payment Check, 1923
Box 2 4 Coordinating Council of Community Organizations Fundraising Letter, undated

Series 2: Quinn Chapel Events, 1893-2006

Subseries 1. Anniversary Book and Related Materials, 1893-1997

Box 2 5 Daily Inter Ocean article on Operation at Provident Hospital, 1893
Box 2 6 55th Anniversary News Clipping, circa 1902
See oversized box 3
Box 2 7 100th Anniversary Sunday Chicago Bee News Clipping, 1947
Box 2 8 110th Anniversary Committee Certificate of Participation, 1957
Box 2 9 120th Anniversary Chicago Tribune News Clipping, 1966
Box 2 10 120th Anniversary Record, Original Book, 1967
Box 2 11 120th Anniversary Record, Photocopy, 1967
Box 2 12 Correspondence regarding history of Quinn Chapel, 1994-1998
Box 2 13 150th Anniversary, Underground Railroad Exhibit Ticket, 1997
Box 2 14 History of the Stewardess and Deaconess Home, undated

Subseries 2. Church Programs and Audiotape of Lecture, 1893-2006

See oversized box 3
Box 2 15 Pittsburgh Courier Article on Delta Sigma Theta Luncheon, 1955
Box 2 16 Event Planning Correspondence, 1957, 1965, 1998
Box 2 17 Brotherhood Service Program, 1960
Box 2 18 Audiocassette of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Sermon, July 25, 1965; recording is of poor quality and often undecipherable
Box 2 19 Rally and March with Martin Luther King Jr. and Al Raby Flyer, 1965
Box 2 20 Invitation to Annual Men’s Day Service, 1969
Box 2 21 Church Conference Choir Program, circa 1984
Box 2 22 Funeral Programs, 1990, 2000
Box 2 23 King Center Product Listing, 1993
Box 2 24 Save America’s Treasures Reception Program, 2001
Box 2 25 Annual Trustee Day Program, 2006

Series 3: Reverend Archibald J. Carey Jr., 1952-1965

Box 2 26 Address of Archibald J. Carey Jr. at the Republican National Convention, 1952
Box 2 27 Correspondence of Archibald J. Carey, Jr., 1957-1965
Box 2 28 Correspondence of Archibald J. Carey, Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr., 1955-1960
Box 2 29 Statement of Archibald J. Carey, Jr. at All-Chicago Hour of Prayer and Report Meeting, 1956
Box 2 30 State of Illinois House Resolution Number 225 for Archibald J. Carey, Jr., undated
Box 3 1 72nd Anniversary, Quinn Chapel Beacon newsletter, July 1919
Box 3 2 Daily Inter Ocean Articles on Fredrick Douglass and Ida B. Wells lectures, 1893
Box 4 1 Senior Usher Board’s Ledger , 1946-1950
Box 4 2 Senior Usher Board’s Ledger , 1964-1966

Series 4: Photographs, circa 1870, 1969

Box 5 1 Joanna Huss Hall and Abraham Thompson Hall, circa 1870
Box 5 2 Mr. Pollard, undated
Box 5 3 Reverend Jesse Jackson speaking at Quinn Chapel, 1969
Box 5 4 Unidentified 1 of 3, undated
Box 5 5 Unidentified 2 of 3, undated
Box 5 6 Unidentified 3 of 3, undated
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