Little Known Fact: Vashti Murphy McKenzie, First Black Woman to Serve as Bishop of A.M.E Church

Written by Jae Jones

Did you know made history in 2000 when she was elected by the African Methodist Episcopal church as the first woman to serve as bishop? She made history once again five years later when she was named Titular Head of the A.M.E Church.

McKenzie’s family was well-known and prominent in the Baltimore area. She was born to Ida Murphy Smith Peters and Samuel Edward Smith. McKenzie is the granddaughter of Carl Murphy, editor and publisher of the Afro-American newspapers and Vashti Turley Murphy, her namesake, and one of the twenty-two founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. The ordained minister attended the University of Maryland in 1978. After graduation, McKenzie began working for her family newspaper and wrote her own column, “The McKenzie Report.”

She eventually went on to pursue a career in journalism and broadcasting before becoming ordained. McKenzie worked for WJZ-TV doing a segment on a program called Evening Magazine. She rotated between working at WYCB, WEBB, and WAYE as an on-air personality, program director, general manager, and later Corporate Vice President of Programming for Mortenson Broadcasting Company.


McKenzie was ordained by the A.M.E. Church in 1984, after which she pastured Oak Street A.M.E. Church. McKenzie went on to earn her Master’s degree in divinity from Howard University Divinity School in 1985, and became a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. In 1990, McKenzie joined Payne Memorial A.M.E., and within ten years the congregation had tripled in attendance. According to America Web, in 2000, McKenzie was named as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop at the A.M.E.’s annual convention in Cleveland, OH. McKenzie was also named to oversee the 18th Episcopal District, which covered Southeast Africa. Read more.


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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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