The Black people who resided in the Buckhead area during the latter part of the eighteen hundreds were, for the most part, servants of wealthy landowners in the area. They had a need for a special place of worship, but had no resources with which to purchase the land. The late Mr. James "Whispering" Smith, a white resident of the Buckhead community, decided to give two acres of land to be used for a church and school for "Negroes." The will was dated on May 29, 1872. We cannot help but believe that Mr. Smith was inspired by God to conceive and execute such a kind and magnanimous act. Eight days after affixing his signature to his last will and testament, Mr. James Smith passed away.
The late Mr. James "Whispering" Smith, a white resident of the Buckhead community, decided to give two acres of land to be used for a church and school for "Negroes."
The land which James Smith gave to New Hope was the site of the first New Hope Camp Meeting. Reverend Roland Wishum, though not a pastor, served as the leader of the founding group and as caretaker of the church property. The first pastor, the Reverend Joseph Woods, was affectionately known as Reverend Joe Woods. Shortly after he was called, the church decided to become part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
This particular denomination grew out of the efforts of Richard Allen and many of his followers who had originally been a part of the Methodist Church. The A.M.E. Movement gradually gained converts across the Southeast and established itself in Georgia. New Hope was among the first Negro congregations in Atlanta to accept African Methodism.
The A.M.E. Movement gradually gained converts across the Southeast and established itself in Georgia.
The first services on the New Hope Camp Ground were held in the open, under shade trees. The members and the pastors served well and the Church became the center for spiritual growth and social contact for the Negro people in the area and the broader Atlanta community.
Annually on the fourth Sunday in August, dinner was spread and the sermons were preached throughout the day. It is said that the people of New Hope began to prepare for that day months in advance by laying aside special hams and designating certain chickens to be killed and cooked for the occasion. New Hope truly was the site of one of the most widely known and well attended camp meetings throughout the South. New Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church has been sent a total of forty-one ministers to serve God and to provide leadership. Most of them ministers were married and the wives, too, made significant contributions.
New Hope truly was the site of one of the most widely known and well attended camp meetings throughout the South.
Reverend J. F. Moses, during his tenure, was concerned that the Church had no parsonage for ministers. Under his leadership, the first parsonage was constructed.
In 1927, the Reverend R.E. Lee led the congregation in the construction of the basement of the Church after a fire destroyed the original plank structure. During construction, Sunday School classes and church services were held in the New Hope School. The basement later served as a classroom for teaching pupils when New Hope School burned in 1942.
In 1936, the Reverend W.W. Stephens and his faithful and dedicated followers completed the Sanctuary of New Hope A.M.E. Church. Mr. Clark Howell was named Honorary Trustee.
During that period very few members of the Church possessed the necessary financial resources to qualify for a construction loan. Mrs. Beatrice Bogan and the late Mrs. Anna Jones secured a loan, collateralized by personal property, in order to help get the construction started. Others in the congregation secured gifts from white friends and employers to help. Mr. Alex Milt, the contractor, because he was not a Black man, was able to take out a loan in his name to cover most of the construction costs.
Over the years, the Church has endured through good times and bad, and is prevailing with the help of Almighty God. One of its worst times was the devastating tornado which struck Atlanta in 1975. The Church sustained heavy damages during the storm and was partially restored later. The members are a devoted, loving and loyal band of people who are faithful in their support of the Church. They have accepted the challenge to serve unselfishly and are engaged in various efforts to beautify and strengthen the bonds of fellowship. There is in the Church a feeling of kinship of the heart and unity in serving God.
They have accepted the challenge to serve unselfishly and are engaged in various efforts to beautify and strengthen the bonds of fellowship.
New Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church has survived for more than one hundred and thirty-five years because its people have always had a "Vision of a New Tomorrow." Langston Hughes, the late beloved Black poet of great renown, once wrote, "Hold on to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." Dare to dream New Hope for it is the dream which inspires a people to greater service to God and man. HOLD ON NEW HOPE TO THE OLD HOPE THAT SUSTAINS A NEW VISION FOR A NEW TOMORROW.
Written by Reverend Elizabeth C. Few