Clinton - Bethel AME documentary
Arman Hodasefat, an MFA student in Cinematic Arts, created a short documentary film about the Bethel AME Church in Clinton, a historic church that served many members of the Black and African American community and others in Clinton.
Founded in 1868, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, or Bethel AME, played an important role in the Clinton, Iowa community over its 152-year history. Bethel, which means “House of God,” organized as a place of worship for Clinton’s Black and African American community, although the church welcomed parishioners from all walks of life.
Melissa Glanton, former slave and mother of 11 children, is revered for helping raise the $600 needed for the construction of the original church by selling books. In 2010, Bethel moved from 303 3rd Street to 238 4th Ave, an adjacent property and former home to St. John's Episcopal Church. Forced to close by the Covid pandemic in 2020, Bethel AME was not able to reopen.
Now, a new project seeks to restore and repurpose these two churches, both preserving the historic character of the buildings and honoring Bethel’s important legacy in Clinton. The Great Revivalist Brewery recently opened in the form St. John's space, while the long-time Bethel AME space is planned to be a community space that honors the legacy of Bethel and importnat Black community leaders.
Among the congregation's members were LaMetta Wynn (1933 - 2021), the mayor of Clinton from 1995 to 2007 and the first African-American woman to hold the position of mayor in any Iowa municipality; and Frederick Wayman "Duke" Slater (1898 - 1966) a University of Iowa football player and Chicago-based judge whose father, George, served as the church's pastor.