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About This Site

Black Presence in the Episcopal Diocese of New York Project (BPP)


To create a public spiritual space for truth and truth-telling about the experiences of people of African descent within the Episcopal Diocese of New York from colonial times through the present day.

To provide material and stories that will expand and deepen the church’s understandings of the experiences, contributions and impact people of African descent bring throughout the diocese.

Historical Background and Development:
In February 2017, during the annual Commemoration of Absalom Jones at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, we had a display about the colonial and pre-civil war Harlem African Burial Ground (HABG). One member of the Absalom Jones Celebration Planning Committee (AJCPC) serves on the HABG Task Force Executive committee and arranged the exhibit to share information about this segregated cemetery, which included enslaved and free people of African descent from several Manhattan Episcopal churches, primarily St. Michael’s Church, St. Mary’s Church and All Angels Church.  The exhibit was the catalyst for two members of the AJCPC creating and coordinating  the Black Presence in the Episcopal Diocese of New York Project (BPP).

2020 Update:
As part of the National Council on Public History’s 40th Annual Conference (March, 2020)  Digital Public History Lab, Jean Ballard Terepka, BPP Co-Founder, will facilitate a session on Digital Projects and Community Outreach.

This session planned to present the Black Presence Project of the Episcopal Diocese of New York as an example of primary source digitization as a strategy for community outreach.  The discussion would have  focused on  group-generated examples and their procedural features as well as practical strengths and challenges.  Unfortunately the conference was cancelled as a result of the COVID 19 Pandemic.

In July, 2020, Terepka was elected President of the Board of National Episcopal Historians and Archivists (NEHA) after three years as a Board member and twelve years as a general member of NEHA. R. Emanuel Scott Jr. and Roberta Todd also are NEHA members.

Diocesan Participation:
All churches – their clergy, vestry and congregants – are encouraged to participate in the project by researching, documenting and exploring stories connected to  people of African descent in the diocese.   This work can be accomplished by the examination of church records, oral histories and other resources.   Let us know about material you are exploring and would like to share by completing the BPP diocesan form — click  here.   Tells us If you have comments or questions about the material on the website or the project  — click  here.

The BPP coordinators will collaborate with you so your stories can be told.

Jean Ballard Terepka
St. Michael’s   Church,  Manhattan
Harlem African Burial Ground,
Executive Committee
Roberta Todd
Christ Church, Riverdale
Diocesan Anti-Racism Committee,


Ex Officio Members: Carla Burns, Wayne Kempton, Nicholas Richardson

Members: R. Emanuel Scott, Jr.,   Jean Ballard Terepka, Roberta Todd