John A. Woods papers: 1932-1989 (bulk 1970-1989)
Summary Information
Title: John A. Woods papers
Creator: Woods, John A., 1914-1989
Inclusive dates: 1932-1989
Bulk dates: 1970-1989
Extent: 1.75 linear feet
African Methodist Episcopal pastor with churches in Albion and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Collection includes sermons, biographical materials, materials related to history of the church, scattered minutes of meetings, newspaper clippings, and photographs.
Call number: 91466 Aa 2
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid created by Paula Jabloner, June 1991 and Olga Virakhovskaya, April 2014

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was received from John A. Woods, Jr. (Donor No. 7911) in 1991 and 2014.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see:


Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

[item], folder, box, John A. Woods papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


The Reverend John A. Woods was born on February 14, 1914 in North Carolina. In 1944, he graduated from Johnson C. Smith Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Upon graduation, he organized the Bethel Presbyterian Church in Detroit and served as its pastor for eight years. Later Reverend Woods joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Reverend Woods served as pastor of Bethel AME Church in Richmond, Indiana for seven years, and pastor of the Lewis Chapel AME Church in Albion, Michigan for three years. In 1964, the Reverend Woods became pastor of Bethel AME Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He served Bethel AME for 25 years until his death in 1989.

While pastor at Bethel AME, he aided in the growth of the church. One of his major accomplishments was to build a new church in 1971. He lived long enough to see the building paid for in the summer of 1989. To recognize his service to the community, the Ann Arbor City Council named December 25, 1987 as "Reverend John A. Woods Appreciation Day." The resolution of appreciation states, that Reverend Woods "has helped to build the Black community in Ann Arbor into a community that affirms the worth and dignity of all and works to end injustice and suffering."

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John A. Woods papers measure 1.75 linear feet. The majority of the collection consists of sermons (1.5 linear feet). Because most of the sermons are undated, their original order has been retained. Other significant files concern Bethel AME Church. An audio cassette captures the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new church in 1971, and a program documents the Burn the Mortgage Celebration service in 1989. Also found in the collection are miscellaneous church meetings minutes, dated 1982 and 1987.

The Biographical Materials folder includes biographical information about Reverend Woods, as well as letters of recommendation and/or appreciation, and tributes. Of importance are old school records, pastoral certificates and the program from Reverend Wood's funeral service on November 14, 1989. The Newspaper Clippings folder also contains a wealth of biographical information about Reverend Woods. Photographs date from circa 1930 and include images of Reverend Woods from a young man onwards, and pictures of groundbreaking and the completed Bethel AME Church. The Services folder contains programs of various services that took place in different AME churches. Miscellaneous material includes printed religious texts and a heavily annotated 1979-80 DBC Student Directory.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • African Americans -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • African American churches -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Church history.
  • Clergy -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • African American churches -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • African Americans -- Michigan.
  • Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Churches.
  • Churches -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Clergy.
  • Photographs.
  • Sermons.
  • African Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • Bethel A.M.E. Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • Woods, John A., 1914-1989.
  • Bethel A.M.E. Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
John A. Woods papers [series]
Box   1  
Biographical Materials
Box   1  
Burn the Mortgage Celebration Service 1989
Box   1  
Church history
Box   1  
Groundbreaking Bethel AME Church 1971 (audio cassette)
Box   1  
Meetings minutes 1982, 1987
Box   1  
Newspaper clippings 1965-1989
Box   1  
Photographs: portraits, photos of Woods inside his church, photo of church and of groundbreaking service
Box   1  
Sermons (40 folders)
Box   2  
Sermons (37 folders)
Box   2  
Services 1981-1989
Box   2