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Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake

A co-pastor at one of the largest churches in New York, Reverend Elaine Flake was born on July, 2, 1948 an only child to Leroy and Lorene McCollins in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1970, she graduated with her B.A. degree in English from Fisk University and went on to get her M.A. degree in English from Boston University. In 1993, Flake earned her Masters of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York. She was also awarded a D.D. degree from United Theological Seminary in Ohio where her husband, the Reverend Floyd Flake was an alumnus.

In 1976, Flake assumed a leadership role at The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York alongside her husband. Through their work, The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral became the 57th largest church in America and was featured nationally in media like Ebony Magazine and The History Channel. In 1983, she co-founded the Allen Christian School in Jamaica, NY, serving over 500 African American students. She went on to found the Allen Women’s Resource Center providing services to women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. The Center is also partnered with New York’s ‘Superwoman Program’ to help women find untraditional career fields. That same year Reverend Flake began the Allen Prison Ministry, the Allen Cancer Support Ministry, and the Allen HIV/AIDS Spiritual Support Ministry. These resources together made the Cathedral a central point in Queens, New York. For twenty-seven years, she has also hosted annual spiritual retreats/conferences for women. In 1999, she became the co-Pastor of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York.

In the late 1990’s Flake contributed to publications about spirituality including the Women of Color Study Bible compiled by World Bible Publishing and Souls of My Sisters: Black Women Break their Silence, Tell Their Stories, and Heal Their Spirits edited by Dawn Marie Daniels and Candace Sandy. In 2003, Flake and her husband co-authored their own book Practical Virtues: Everyday Values and Devotions for African American Families Learning To Live With All Our Souls filled with historical narratives related to spiritual values. Together they also wrote the African American Church Management Handbook and in 2007, Flake alone wrote God in Her Midst: Preaching Healing to Hurting Women.

Flake lives in New York City with her husband Floyd and they have four adult children, Aliya, Nailah, Robert, and Harold.

Elaine Flake was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 27, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.006

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/27/2010

Last Name

Flake

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Hamilton Elementary School

Fisk University

Boston University

Union Theological Seminary

United Theological Seminary

Hamilton High School

Speakers Bureau

Organizations

First Name

Elaine

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

FLA03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Aruba

Favorite Quote

There Is No Substitute For Common Sense.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

7/2/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Greens (Turnip)

Short Description

Pastor Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake (1948 - ) was a pastor at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in New York City, a co-founder of the Allen Christian School and the author of God in Her Midst: Preaching Healing to Hurting Women.

Employment

Newton Massachusetts School District

Allen Christian School

Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York

Favorite Color

Peach

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about her family's land ownership

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about her paternal uncles' departure from Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about her father's U.S. Navy service

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake remembers her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake remembers segregation in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake compares the racial climate in Tennessee and Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake remembers her schooling in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about the class distinctions within the African American community

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes her early musical interests

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls the integration of public accommodations in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes her social life at Hamilton High School in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes her experiences at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake remembers moving to Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls the reactions to President John F. Kennedy's assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake remembers Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls meeting her husband

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake remembers joining the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls founding the Allen Christian School in Queens, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes the Allen Christian School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls the founding of the Allen Women's Resource Center

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about the challenges faced by female ministers

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls her reception as a female preacher

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls the election of Bishop Vashti McKenzie

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake remembers her calling to the ministry

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls her theological education

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes the ministries of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about her concerns for the African Methodist Episcopal church

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about the reassignment of pastors in the African Methodist Episcopal church

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake talks about the importance of female ministers

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

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DATape

4$2

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake remembers her calling to the ministry
Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Transcript
I did not ask you, what was the nature of your call to the ministry (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) My call?$$Yeah.$$I think, to be honest with you--now, I've always loved church. I'd never seen a female preacher. And remember I said when I heard the Reverend Nurjhan Govan preach at the St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Cambridge [Massachusetts], I cried for a week. I just couldn't stop crying. So my pastor then, John Bryant [John Richard Bryant], said to me, "Are you okay?" He said, "Are you sure you're not being called to preach?" And of course that was a foreign concept to me, because I never knew that women--and I can't say that that was the call. But I think that may have opened the door, or that may have been the beginning of it. Then when we came--and I've always been involved in church, always loved church. So, I worked very hard at the church there in Cambridge. Then when I married Floyd [HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Floyd Flake] and we came here [Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, Jamaica, New York], it was just kind of a natural fit. I just do church; I just love church. And so I took the missionary society, I took the women's department. And then people began to ask me to speak, ask me to come and speak for Women's Day, and to speak for different occasions in the church. And so then I was out there doing it. And then finally somebody said, "Well, you may as well make it official." In fact, I think it was my former pastor who said, "You know, you're jack legging. You may as well make it official." So I cried and prayed, and I went to see Dr. Jim Forbes [HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr.] down at Union Seminary [Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York], because I needed a voice that was not--you know, kind of a detached voice--not my husband, not people who knew me well. And I had met Dr. Forbes and I asked for an appointment, and he listened to me. And he said, "I just think you just are hard to convince. But I think that, you know, God is really calling you." And he encouraged me to go to the seminary. And that's kind of how it happened. It was kind of a--you know, I was not knocked off my donkey on the Damascus Road. It was just kind of an evolution into ministry. I've always done ministry in terms of working and fundraising and missions, outreach. But all of a sudden, people were just asking me. I was getting all these invitations to come and preach, to speak, not preach. And so I just kind of went into it that way, very cautiously, asking for signs all along the way.$Now you were out of high school [Hamilton High School, Memphis, Tennessee] when Dr. King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] was killed.$$Well, I was at Fisk.$$You were at Fisk.$$I went to Fisk University [Nashville, Tennessee].$$Okay.$$On April 4, 1968. I remember we were, we were at--a friend of ours had gotten her boyfriend's car, or her brother's car, and we were driving around listening to the cassette tapes then. And when we got to campus, we saw the campus was deserted. And I remember the dean of students running across campus telling us, "Get in, get in." You know, they just, Dr. King had just been assassinated. So, I remember it was just hysteria. And we had to run to our dorms, because the riots, there were riots in Nashville [Tennessee] that night. And I can remember just the anger. And the girls, you know, they made stay in the dorm. The boys somehow got out. And I remember hanging out of a window throwing Coke bottles [Coca-Cola] down to the boys so they could go take them. And they were throwing bottles into the--I don't know if I should be telling this. They were throwing bottles into the car windows of people. You know, just the rage, the anger, that was felt. And the girls couldn't do anything. The only thing we knew to do was to give them ammunition. So, in the girls dorm--and then I remember the National Guard walking across our campus and surrounding our dorms trying to keep us calm.$$Now, what did Martin Luther King mean to you?$$Well, for us, Dr. King was the engineer of the Civil Rights Movement. He was our voice, he was our hero, he was our Moses. So, the idea that someone would assassinate him produced, evoked a kind of rage that--it was even hard--it was hard to contain, it was hard to express. The tears, the anger--you know, it was a mess in there, in that dorm, you know. People were just angry, but we couldn't strike out at each other. They were hitting walls and breaking bottles, you know, just--it was awful.