Reference Entry

Payne, Daniel A.

Zachery R. Williams

in Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195167771
Payne, Daniel A.

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Daniel Alexander Payne was born to free black parents in Charleston, South Carolina. A prominent minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Payne was influential in standardizing worship services and improving the quality of religious education. He also wrote a comprehensive history of the AME Church. Payne was elected bishop at the church's general conference in 1852, an event that the author and social critic Benjamin Brawley declared was as significant as the 1816 election of the church's first bishop, Richard Allen. Payne expanded the church's missionary programs, revamped its publications, and spearheaded the establishment of numerous congregations. On 10 March 1863 Payne persuaded the AME Church to purchase Wilberforce University, in Wilberforce, Ohio, for ten thousand dollars. The institution had been founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1856 as a school for young African American men and women. Shortly after the purchase, Payne was named the president of Wilberforce, becoming the first African American president of a black college or university; he held the post until 1876. Payne's educational philosophy, methods, and personal example of discipline attracted able students and faculty to the school, including W. E. B. Du Bois, to whom Payne offered a faculty position in 1892. On 15 May 1865 Payne founded the South Carolina Conference of the AME Church. This conference became the central part of the denomination's expansion throughout the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. In 1868 he was chosen to preside at the Methodist Pastors Association meeting in Paris. As a delegate to the first Ecumenical Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in London, held on 13 September 1881, Payne read a paper on Methodism and temperance. That same year Payne founded one of the earliest think tanks and literary societies of the nineteenth century, the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, in Washington, D.C. Payne was an active participant at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. As a bishop of the AME Church, he joined an impressive array of world religious figures on the platform of the Hall of Columbus on the Monday morning of the opening exercises of the parliament. Before his death, in Wilberforce, Payne recorded his life's experiences in an autobiography titled Recollections of Seventy Years. Frederick Douglass and Payne developed a close relationship over the years. Indicative of their friendship was the dedication Douglass delivered on 21 May 1894 at the unveiling of a monument erected to the memory of Payne. Douglass characterized the bishop as “a noble and good man.” Describing his first encounter with Payne, when the minister was preaching at the historic Mother Bethel Church in Philadelphia, Douglass recalled being impressed with Payne's intellect and command of language. He described Payne as possessing a strong, peaceful, and influential character and lauded the bishop's organizational abilities and his success in increasing the level of intelligence, morality, and education in the AME Church. Douglass stated that Payne “carried the torchlight of education wherever he went” and was able to “discover the truth in all ethical matters.” According to Douglass, Payne “not only knew the truth” but also possessed “the ability to cling to it with unrelenting tenacity.” See also African Methodist Episcopal Church; Black Church; Douglass, Frederick; Education; Free African Americans before the Civil War (South); Literature; Monuments, Museums, Public Markers; Religion; Religion and Slavery; Temperance; and World's Columbian Exposition.

Reference Entry.  635 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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