Jun 21, 2023
Gordon Parks Museum receives the Church property location that Gordon Parks attended
The ground on which the historic African-American Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church once stood is now the property of the Gordon Parks Museum, thanks to Fort Scott resident Josh Jones and the Fort Scott Community College Foundation.
Jones donated the site on the southeast corner of Third and Lowman streets where the church, attended regularly by Gordon Parks and his family, was located. The church was also used in a scene from Parks’ acclaimed film, “The Learning Tree.”
“We are very excited about this donation and can’t thank Josh and the Foundation enough,” said museum executive director Kirk Sharp. “This donation creates this wonderful opportunity to keep this incredible history alive in Fort Scott. This is also the same location that is located on our Learning Tree Film Sign Trail.
”The tentative plans, Sharp said, are to develop the property as a commemorative low-maintenance park with signs, photos, benches and short walls as a tribute to the AME church.
“The museum will look for possible grants and donations to help fund this project,” he noted. “There is currently on timeline as of now for the completion of the tribute project.”
In its heyday, the church, established in 1866, was the hub of Fort Scott’s black community. The church moved from its original location in 1885, occupying a new brick building on the corner of Third and Lowman, where it stood at 301 S. Lowman with a viable congregation for more than 115 years.
A reduction in members and unsafe conditions eventually led to its condemnation and razing in the early 2000s, Sharp said. One of the stained-glass windows and two of the pews are on exhibit at the Gordon Parks Museum.“
The largest congregation was believed to have been in 1888,” he said. “The city directory for that year indicates the membership was 260 and the Sunday school membership was 100.”
The AME church was Fort Scott’s first and oldest black church with Shiloh Baptist being the second.