African Methodist Episcopal minister Benjamin Tucker Tanner was born on December 25, 1835 in Pittsburgh, Pa to Hugh and Isabella Tanner.
At the age of 17, Tanner enrolled in Avery College. In 1856, Tanner 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 former slave who had escaped on the Underground Railroad.
Through their union, the couple had four children, including Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson, one of the first African-American women to
become a physician in the United States and Henry Osawa Tanner, the most distinguished African-American artist of the 19th Century.
In 1860, Tanner graduated from Western Theological Seminary with a pastoral certificate and within two years, he established an
AME Church in Washington D.C.
While serving as a minister, Tanner established the United States’ first school for freed African-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 become the
largest circulating African-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.