Did You Know? South Dakota’s First African-American Church Pre-dates Statehood
We're in the final few days of Black History Month as we pay tribute to generations of African Americans who have made a lasting impact on the history and culture of the United States.
Across the country, there are numerous significant places that have been an integral part of African American history over the past four centuries.
That includes one in South Dakota you might not be aware of.
The state's lone entry on a list of 'Historic Sites Commemorating Black History in Every State' from Stacker.com is a small, unassuming building right in the heart of Yankton.
It's the African Methodist Episcopal Church at 508 Cedar Street and does it have a story to tell.
According to the South Dakota Historical Society, the church was founded by former slave Christopher Columbus ('C.C.') Yancey, also known as Tom Douglass, who arrived in the then Dakota Territory aboard a steamboat in 1878.
Yancey settled in the Yankton area, working on the steamboat docks and later as a restaurant and saloon owner. He married Annie Saunders, and the couple eventually had five sons.
In November 1883, nearly six years before South Dakota became a state, Yancey and other African American business leaders in Yankton, formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church congregation, which first met in the shop of Henry Robinson, a local barber.
Four years later, November 11, 1887, the congregation's new home on Cedar Street was formally dedicated.
Dwindling attendance brought an end to regular services at the church several years ago, but the building stills stands and is open to visitors.