For example preeminent African-American civil rights pioneer Frederick Douglass who interfaced with President Lincoln attended service there and the church was the site of his funeral in 1895 as well as legendary labor leader and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph who was funeralized at the church.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert H. Humphrey, Charles H. Wesley, Paul Laurence Dunbar are among a list of previous speakers who have graced the pulpit of Metropolitan AME.
“Obama is a messenger just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who always had a message about peace,” Rev. Hill said. “For him to visit an African-American church on this Sunday sends a message that as a Black man he is not ashamed to go to his roots.”
Obama has selected Myrlie Evers Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, the slain civil rights activist to deliver the invocation at the inauguration, another twist to the celebration that reflects on the civil rights pilgrimage that included the blood of many innocent lives shed.
“I am eternally grateful to Obama to have Myrlie Evers to deliver the invocation,” Rev. Hill said. “To me that means that from the grave the work of Emma Till leaves on. Obama now leaves a legacy for our children that you have an obligation to never forget where you came from.”
Reverend Hill said to look at the White House built with the hands of slaves and to see a Black man now occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as president is completing a cycle of history.
“That is why the Black church today needs to go back to our roots to give our children not only religious training but social and economic training because it was the center place of our existence as a people,” Rev. Hill said.”The Black church should reach out and help because so many people are hurting out there.”
Virgie Rollins, chair of the Democratic Black Caucus said Obama’s visit to Metropolitan AME today shows “He is still trying to decide where he wants to worship. I’m assuming he enjoys it.”
The Obamas seemed to be building a strong affinity with the AME Church. President Obama addressed the General Conference in 2008, and in June 2012, Michelle Obama, was the keynote speaker at the church’s quadrennial General Conference where she delivered a fiery speech.
“You see, living out our eternal salvation is not a once-a-week kind of deal,” she said. “And in a more literal sense, neither is citizenship.”
She urged the 10,000 attendees of the conference to move beyond the four walls of their churches and make a difference.
“And to anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better – no place better. Because these are not just political issues—they are moral issues,” She said at the height of the heated 2012 presidential campaign. “Find that nephew who has never voted—get him registered.”