Facebook Twitter

Donate to BlackPast Blog
  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
  • Perspectives

NOTE: will not disclose, use, give or sell any of the requested information to third parties.

16 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Rock the Vote

NAAAS & Affiliates 27th Joint National Conference

Shop Amazon and help in the Classroom

Burns United Methodist Church (1866- )

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Burns United Methodist Church (UMC) in Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa, is the oldest still-operating historically African American congregation in the state of Iowa. It was originally organized in 1866 as the Black Methodist Episcopal Church of Iowa, during a decade in which there were fewer than two dozen black residents of Polk County. After the Civil War, northern Methodists attempted to organize blacks, both free from birth and newly free, into Methodist congregations. It later changed its name to commemorate Francis Burns (1809-1863), the first African American bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The congregation has met at many different locations over the course of its existence. Upon its founding, it first met in the same building as the city’s segregated school for black children. In 1873, the church built a small chapel, and then relocated to a larger building on East Second and Maple Street in the 1880s. In 1903, it constructed a new church building at Twelfth and Crocker Streets.

In the 1920s, the congregation arranged to purchase the building owned by the Crocker Hill Methodist Church at 811 Crocker Street for $7,000. A fire in 1947 badly damaged this building, but the church was restored.  In 2011, the congregation moved into the building formerly occupied by Gatchel United Methodist Church, at 1909 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway in Des Moines.

At all of these locations, the church offered Sunday school, sponsored literary societies and musical programs, and hosted charitable activities.

In 1977, Burns UMC was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charline J. Barnes and Floyd Bumpers, Iowa’s Black Legacy (Chicago: Lincoln Publishing, 2000); Nancy Curtis, Black Heritage Sites: An African American Odyssey and Finder’s Guide (Chicago: American Library Association, 1996).


University of Washington, Seattle

Entry Categories:

Copyright 2007-2017 - v3.0 NDCHost - California | | Your donations help us to grow. | We welcome your suggestions. | Mission Statement is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.