Black Church Figures You Should Know - John Gloucester

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.


John Gloucester (1776-1822) – Pioneer of the Presbyterian Church



John Gloucester, originally named as Jack by his slave master, became the founder of the first African American Presbyterian Church in the United States. Gloucester was born in 1776 as a slave in Blount County, Tennessee. Rev. Gideon Blackburn, a Presbyterian minister and evangelist, recognized Jack’s potential and proceeded to teach him theology. Subsequently, Blackburn purchased Jack’s freedom, changed his name to John Gloucester, and proceeded to train Gloucester in the ministry. In 1805, Blackburn took Gloucester to a meeting of the Presbyter of the Union where he was licensed and authorized to “preach to the Africans”. A year later, on November 5, 1806, Gloucester began his formal training at Greeneville College, becoming the first African American to attend the school. After completing his training, he traveled to Philadelphia with Blackburn and it was there that the first African Presbyterian church was formed in 1807. John was married to Rhonda and together they had five children who were also all freed from slavery. Of those five children, all four of his sons became Presbyterian ministers-three of which also formed their own congregations. Gloucester continued his dedication to the ministry until his death in 1822 to pneumonia. In 1910, the John Gloucester Memorial and Historical society began to promote and preserve his legacy and continues today. In addition, the Presbytery of Boston, Ma sponsors John Gloucester Memorial scholarships for Presbyterian students nationwide.

For more information visit: John Gloucester

Westminster Sermons: John Gloucester and the First African Presbyterian Church

Historical Society of Pennsylvania: The Home of African American Presbyterianism

Facts on Faith Web: John Gloucester