Civil Rights Tour: Legal Campaigns - Campbell A.M.E. Church, Organizing Base

2568 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE

In the 1940s, Campbell African Methodist Episcopal Church was a hub of resistance to school segregation in the District. In collaboration with local and national organizations, the church planned for and staged events that would ultimately lead to Bolling v. Sharpe, a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education which ended legal school segregation nationwide. All of the Bolling plaintiffs were neighborhood residents, including Barbara and Adrienne Jennings who were members of the church.

Under the leadership of Rev. Samuel Everette Guiles, Campbell AME regularly hosted meetings of the NAACP and the Consolidated Parent Group—organized by Gardner Bishop and other DC parents to fight for equal education—as well as fundraisers to support their work.

In September 1950, when the John Philip Sousa Junior High for whites opened on Ely Place SE, Gardner Bishop and Rev. Guiles showed up to enroll a group of Black students whose own schools were far away and overcrowded. When the School Board turned down their request, the Consolidated Parent Group sued School Board President C. Melvin Sharpe on behalf of the Jennings sisters, Spottswood Bolling, Jr., and his brother Wanamaker, and other students who would be required to cross the Anacostia River to attend junior high school. (Frederick Douglass Junior High School did not open until 1952).

Rev. Guiles worked directly with attorney James Nabrit to map out strategy. After the Bolling decision came down, Rev. Guiles worked with the Anacostia Emergency Education Committee to push for the speedy admittance of African American students to Anacostia High School.

Campbell AME was established in 1867 when members of Allen Chapel in Southeast DC left to form Mount Zion AME Church on what is now Douglass Road. It became Campbell AME when it moved to its present location; the current building dates to 1938.