Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie made history in 2000 when she was elected by the African Methodist Episcopal church as the first woman to serve as bishop. Bishop McKenzie made history once more five years later after she was named Titular Head of the A.M.E. Church as well.
McKenzie was born into a prominent Baltimore family on May 28, 1947. McKenzie’s father, John Henry Murphy Sr., was the founder of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, better known today as the Afro-American, in 1892. Her mother, Vashti Turly Murphy, was a founding member of the Delta Theta Sigma sorority.
McKenzie, a 1978 graduate of the University of Maryland, began her career in journalism and broadcasting before becoming ordained in the A.M.E. church in 1984. She also attended Howard University and obtained a doctorate for the the United Theological Seminary.
McKenzie’s first major appointment began in her hometown of Baltimore when she lead the Payne Memorial A.M.E. Church in 1990. In a decade’s time, McKenzie was able more than triple the church’s attendance numbers, landing her on the national map.
In 2000, she was named as as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop at the A.M.E.’s annual convention in Cleveland that year. McKenzie was also named to oversee the 18th Episcopal District, which covered Southeast Africa. McKenzie helped lead HIV/AIDS outreach across nation’s in that region of the continent.
Little Known Black History Fact: Bishop Vashti McKenzie was originally published on blackamericaweb.com