Built between 1876 and 1879, Saint Luke’s is a major work of Calvin T.S. Brent (1854-1899), the city’s first Black architect. It is designed in the early English Gothic style and features a long nave with cast-iron columns, exposed roof framing, oak paneling, and stained glass. Yet, some say the edifice is a physical creation and embodiment of Reverend Alexander Crummell’s belief in the role the church historically played in the lives of Black Americans as an advocate for social change, education, and self-help.
Reverend Alexander Crummell (1819-1898) overcame obstacles of the color caste in the ministry and helped found Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church. He was also one of the foremost Black scholars of the nineteenth century, a pioneer in establishing an African American tradition of scholarship, a spokesman for Black liberation, and the founder of the American Negro Academy. Crummell’s work inspired future scholars throughout the twentieth century, as they carried on his legacy of understanding Black civil rights and the ongoing struggle for freedom.
Through these positions, Crummell laid a foundation for his intellectual predecessors’ scholarship and organizing efforts, such as Carter G. Woodson’s formation of the ASNLH and Du Bois’s creation of the NAACP. Additionally, both Du Bois and Marcus Garvey followed Crummell’s belief in Pan Africanism. Crummell’s life exemplifies a tradition inherent in the development of Black history and culture in which his philosophies were carried further by those who came after him.
DC Inventory: March 3, 1979
National Register: May 11, 1976
National Historic Landmark: May 11, 1976