Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1836 when black worshippers left Easton’s Ebenezer M.E. Church where they had worshipped along side white church members. The national Methodist Episcopal organization’s slipping support for abolition may have prompted this move. That year, the national M.E. conference in Cincinnati declared it would no longer bar church members from holding slaves, resulting in rising racial tensions within the denomination.
Original church members met at a carriage house before purchasing the property where the church now sits. The current Gothic Revival structure dates to 1876 and was dedicated by Frederick Douglass in 1878. The bell tower was added in the 1890s.
Grahams Hall, a two-story building once located on Grahams Alley behind the Asbury Church, was the heart of the African American community where many dances, wedding receptions, and social gatherings were held. On June 6, 1872, the Colored Republicans of Talbot County assembled at Grahams Hall to select delegates to attend the state convention in Baltimore. Asbury became a United Methodist Church in the 20th century.
Over the years, Asbury Church played a central role in black education in The Hill Community. Archaeologists have found several fragments of writing slates used to teach children to read and write.
During segregation, a wooden structure behind the church called the Tabernacle served as the gymnasium for the original Robert Russa Moton High School, which was located 10 blocks away on Port Street. African American students walking between their high school and their gym class had to pass the white high school on Hanson Street.
Residents recall that African American teachers who lived in The Hill Community attended Asbury, even when they lived closer to Bethel A.M.E. Church. In 2019, Asbury is home to both African-American and Hispanic congregations. See the INTERPRETIVE PANEL to the north of the building for a complete church timeline.