From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Miles, William Henry

(born: 1828  -  died: 1892) 

William Henry Miles was born in Springfield, KY, the slave of Mrs. Mary Miles, who died in 1854 and willed William his freedom--but he was not freed until 1864.

Miles was licensed to preach in 1857. He married Frances E. Arnold in 1859. A member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church, he later returned to the Methodist Episcopal Church South that was white and developed the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, a denomination separate from the white church.

In 1870, Miles was elected to the episcopacy, the highest position of any African American in the church; during his lifetime, he was the senior Bishop of the CME Church. He is credited with organizing conferences and strengthening the CME Church.

Miles helped organize the Louisville Colored Cemetery Association and served as the organization's first president. Miles Memorial College [now Miles College] in Birmingham, Alabama, was named in his honor; the plans for the school began in 1898, beginning  operations in 1900.

Miles Tabernacle in Washington, D.C. was renamed Miles Memorial Church [now Miles Memorial CME Church] in 1894; Bishop Miles had purchased the land for the church. There was also a manuscript, Autobiography of Bishop Miles, which was to have been published by the CME Publishing House.

Bishop William H. Miles was buried in the Louisville Colored Cemetery.

For more see The History of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America, by C. H. Phillips [available online at the UNC Documenting the American South website]; Miles College: the first hundred years, by Miles College Centennial History Committee; and The Rise of Colored Methodism, by O. H. Lakey.

Kentucky County & Region

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Outside Kentucky Place Name

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Miles, William Henry,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 16, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-02-03 18:57:04