Benjamin Tucker Tanner

Benjamin Tucker Tanner

Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Benjamin Tucker Tanner was a prominent figure in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. As a clergyman and news editor, Tanner played a pivotal role in the lives of Black Americans as the Jim Crow Era became a reality. Throughout his career as a religious leader, Tanner integrated the importance of social and political power with fighting racial inequality. 

Early Life and Education

Tanner was born on December 25, 1835 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Hugh and Isabella Tanner.

At the age of 17, Tanner became a student at Avery College. By 1856, Tanner had joined the AME Church and continued to further his education at Western Theological Seminary. While a seminary student, Tanner received his license to preach in the AME Church.

While studying at Avery College, Tanner met and married Sarah Elizabeth Miller, a formerly enslaved woman who had self-liberated on the Underground Railroad. Through their union, the couple had four children, including Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson, one of the first Black American women to become a physician in the United States and Henry Osawa Tanner, the most distinguished Black American artist of the 19th Century.

In 1860, Tanner graduated from Western Theological Seminary with a pastoral certificate. Within two years, he established an AME Church in Washington D.C.

AME Minister and Bishop 

While serving as a minister, Tanner established the United States' first school for freed Black Americans in the United States Navy Yard in Washington D.C. Several years later, he supervised freedman's schools in Frederick County, Maryland. During this time, he also published his first book, An Apology for African Methodism, in 1867.

Elected Secretary of the AME General Conference in 1868, Tanner was also named editor of Christian Recorder. The Christian Recorder soon became one of the largest circulating Black American newspapers in the United States.

By 1878, Tanner received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Wilberforce College.

Soon after, Tanner published his book, Outline and Government of the AME Church, and was appointed editor of the newly established AME newspaper, AME Church Review. In 1888, Tanner became a bishop of the AME Church.


Tanner died on January 14, 1923 in Washington D.C.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lewis, Femi. "Benjamin Tucker Tanner." ThoughtCo, Sep. 28, 2020, Lewis, Femi. (2020, September 28). Benjamin Tucker Tanner. Retrieved from Lewis, Femi. "Benjamin Tucker Tanner." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).