Founded by Reverend James Anderson in 1823, the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church was formed before the Civil War forced an end to the institution of slavery. Strenuously following the race-conscious mission statement, the Church provides a secure place for people of color to worship freely. With the help of many men and women who rose to this task, the Church still stands strong to witness the dreams, power and faith of the Lord.
The original church was built in 1829 on a purchased land that currently faces the site of the Exley Science Center of Wesleyan University. However, the construction of this church caused extreme financial strain that the members were not able to pay Reverend Beman for his services as pastor. Nonetheless, this financial strain motivated Jehiel and his son Leverett to be involved and committed more than ever. Rather than to be discouraged, they opened a shoe-making shop on William Street in Middletown to support the church.
When the Church was finished, it grew to embrace and house many of the race-conscious movements. Under the leadership of Jehiel Beman, the Church wholeheartedly and actively participated in the anti-slavery movement, moral reform, and the struggle for universal male suffrage. Moreover, Beman’s Cross Street Church was a way station for fugitives, as it is speculated that Beman was a conductor of the Underground Railroad in Middletown. Due to his active involvement and commitment, the Church began to be called “The Freedom Church” by many people.