First published in 1956, Rev. David S. Bradley Sr. wrote what was at the time and remains today the most thorough, scholarly history of the beginnings and growth of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Beginning with the birth of A. M. E. Zion Chapel in a humble chapel in New York City, Part 1 traces the growth of the church into a powerful and agile denomination, expanding from the settled coast into the frontiers of upstate New York and western Pennsylvania.
The advancing denomination, with natural and inherited "antagonism to slavery," attracted "freedmen, seeking spiritual freedom," including the famous black Abolitionist activists--Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass, who learned and honed his rhetorical skills as an exhorter in the A. M. E. Zion congregation in New Bedford, Massachusetts, under Reverend Thomas James.
"No road was too pioneering no thought too liberal, for these were freedmen, seeking spiritual freedom . . . All along the Mason Dixon Line, and further West, in Ohio and Indiana, Zion Churchmen became beacon points of hope to the escaped slave and A. M. E. Zion became the church of freedom."