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Cross Street AME Zion Church

This church originated in 1823, and a building was erected in 1830, under the leadership of Reverend Jehiel Beman. Beman, the son of a Revolutionary War soldier and the father of Amos Beman (see Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church, New Haven), led the congregation in the antislavery cause. The church became known as the Freedom Church for its abolitionist activity. Women of the church, under the leadership of Clarissa Beman, created one of the first women’s abolitionist societies, known as the Colored Female Anti-Slavery Society of Middletown. Its goal was not only to bring an end to slavery, but also to improve the condition of free African Americans. The church continued to be a community leader during the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950s and 60s. The congregation participated in protest marches and was witness to numerous visits and speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1965, to help black students go to college Reverend William Davage founded the Greater Middletown Negro Youth Scholarship Fund. The church was rebuilt in 1867, moved about a quarter mile in 1929 and demolished in 1978. A new church building was constructed in 1978 and later sold to Wesleyan University. A building at 440 West Street now houses the congregation.


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