Born Isaac Wright in Maryland to an African slave father and an English indentured-servant mother, minister and abolitionist Daniel Coker received a rudimentary education while attending school as his white half-brother's valet. He escaped to New York while still a youth and took his new name to avoid detection. In New York Coker met Bishop Francis Asbury, who ordained him to the Methodist Church ministry around 1800. Coker returned shortly after to Baltimore and, with his freedom recently purchased, spoke out against slavery, writing an abolitionist pamphlet, A Dialogue Between a Virginian and an African Minister, in 1810. He became the leader of a society of black Methodists who desired independence from white Methodists because of discrimination, and ran the African School in connection with this society.
Coker's Methodist society evolved into the independent African Bethel Church. In 1816 delegates, including Coker and Richard Allen, from five black Methodist societies gathered in Philadelphia to establish the independent African Methodist Episcopal Church. Elected as the first bishop of the new denomination, Coker declined the post—perhaps because of dissension over his light skin color—and Allen became the first bishop. Coker returned to his Baltimore pastorate, but was expelled from the ministry from 1818 to 1819 for an unknown offense. He left for Africa in 1820 as a missionary with the assistance of the Maryland Colonization Society. After spending some time in Liberia, he settled in Sierra Leone, where he was the superintendent of a settlement for "recaptured" Africans and helped found the West African Methodist Church.
Coker, Daniel. Journal of Daniel Coker. Baltimore, 1820.
Payne, Alexander. History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Publishing House of the A.M.E. Sunday School Union, 1891.
timothy e. fulop (1996)