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New Orleans – Historic Wesley United Methodist Church, the second oldest African American church in New Orleans, the eighth oldest in the United States and a symbol of the struggle for emancipation and human rights in the state of Louisiana, is in jeopardy. Unless those who are trying to save it acquire financial support soon, the church may be torn down due to hurricane damage and replaced with a parking lot.

During the 1830s, enslaved Africans built Wesley United brick by brick. “The church was built voluntarily by our people while they were in slavery,” said Sakura Kone, who is leading the movement to save the church. Not only did they work on the church every evening after working tirelessly in the fields, but they also worked all day on Sundays, their only “day off.” They used the bottom level of the church for entertainment, gatherings and other meetings, while on the second floor is the sanctuary filled with hand crafted pews.

During the abolitionist movement to end slavery, Wesley United was a stopping point and hiding place for people fleeing to freedom. Walking through the church gives a sense of communion with the builders who worked so hard for something they could call their own. The founders would be heartbroken if they could see the current state of the church.

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