The founding of the church was inspired by an anti-slavery lecture given here in Elmira in 1840 by Frederick Douglass an escaped slave from Baltimore, Maryland.Later that year it was formed by a group of slaves who had refuge in Elmira, an important station of the "Underground Railroad." The church began as the "Zion Mission," the services were first held in a house at Dickenson and Fourth Streets. On 27 April 1896 the corner stone was laid for the new building at Dickenson and fourth. With the completion the church became known as Frederick Douglass Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church. The church continued to grow, more buildings were added to the church, at its peak the Frederick Douglass A.M.E. Zion Church was an accumulation of five buildings that occupied half a city block. It was the largest Black church in the region during the late 1940's.
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