WASHINGTON — Museum of the Bible has been recognized by the Oklahoma Museums Association (OMA) Awards Committee for its conservation of “The Book of Redemption.” This giving ledger tells the remarkable story of how Vernon Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church survived to become the only remaining black-owned structure from the horrific Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. The ledger records the names, addresses and donation amounts of those who gave toward the church’s rebuilding.
From May 31 through June 1, 1921, violent white mobs razed Tulsa’s prosperous Greenwood District, known today as “Black Wall Street,” to the ground, wounding and killing hundreds of people and decimating entire city blocks. Vernon Chapel was badly damaged during the attacks and only the basement remained.
Members almost immediately began rebuilding the church on its foundation, despite receiving no insurance payments or government assistance. Hundreds of church members donated to pay off the debt accumulated during rebuilding after the Massacre, despite often having little money to spare. Gifts made between 1939 and 1945 were recorded in a ledger that members called the “Book of Redemption,” which was rediscovered by Rev. Dr. Robert Turner and church trustees last year. Museum of the Bible was contacted to restore the extremely fragile book, which is now on display at the church, along with a facsimile for members and guests to look through.
Museum of the Bible will receive its award for “Special Projects — Over $15,001-$50,000” on Thursday, Sept. 16, at The Grand Casino & Resort in Shawnee, Oklahoma, as part of the Oklahoma Museum Conference.
Rev. Dr. Robert Turner has graciously donated a stone from Vernon Chapel’s original foundation, uncovered during recent renovations. The foundation stone is now part of the “Faith After Emancipation” display within the “Bible in America” permanent exhibition.
“This small piece of stone is part of a remarkable story of resilience and resistance. In some ways, it symbolizes the faith that has supported Vernon AME Church for more than a century,” said Anthony Schmidt, Senior Curator at Museum of the Bible.
More information about Oklahoma Museums Association is available here.
More information about Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church is available here.
More information about Museum of the Bible is available here.