The illiteracy of many former slaves led to the founding of the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1866. Many annual conferences approved its educational purposes the next year, and the 1868 General Conference sanctioned its work. Within two years 59 schools were organized and by the 1870s the society was sponsoring orphanages, day and boarding schools, and colleges.
To celebrate the centenary of the little Methodist group organized in 1766 by Barbara Heck and Philip Embury in New York City, northern Methodism promoted a fund to support theological education. A new building at Garrett Biblical Institute in Evanston, Illinois, was named for Barbara Heck, and Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey, was founded in 1867.
There were major developments in black Methodism during Reconstruction. Already during the war years the African Methodist Episcopal and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion churches had entered the South and begun to attract members. The 1866 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South voted to support that denomination's black members in forming their own church, if they should choose to take that step. The step was taken and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church came into existence at Jackson, Tennessee, in December 1870. This new Methodist body, assuming a complete separation of the races would occur in the South, excluded whites. Meanwhile, northern Methodism, after granting full clergy rights to blacks in 1864, had begun to arrange separate annual conferences for blacks, so that by 1895 there were no racially mixed conferences left in the Methodist Episcopal Church.
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