Colored Methodist Episcopal Church of Atlanta Petition to Congress

National Archives senior archivist Reginald Washington takes the viewer on his voyage of discovery, tracing the history of a claim submitted by an African-American congregation whose church was burned to the ground by Union troops under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman. Their seven-page petition — in the legislative holdings at the National Archives — is a heartfelt narrative of the church’s history and includes 234 signatures of free blacks and former slaves who were members of the congregation. The claim was presented to Congress on February 14, 1866, but the name of the church that appears in the petition is found nowhere else in the records of federal claims. Senior archivist Washington used the holdings of the National Archives to answer two questions: did the congregation receive compensation? And does the church exist today under another name?