This congregation was organized by the Court Street Methodist Church in the early 1850s. The latter group offered their 1835 wood frame building to the black members if they would relocate it. In 1852 the church was moved to this site under the supervision of freedman Thomas Wilson, who was assisted by Sol Brack, Solomon Hannon, Emanuel Nobel and others. White ministers served the congregation until 1862 when Allen Hannon assumed the duties. The building was remodeled in 1888 and in 1918-1920 it was reconstructed in the classical revival style.National Register of Historic Places 1-24-1991
The organization of the National W.H.O.M. Society of A.M.E. Zion Church (1880), the meeting (1887) in which it was decided to move State Normal School (now Alabama State University) from Marion to Montgomery, and the first graduation exercises of that school (1888), all took place here. President William Henry McKinley, Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, Governor Thomas Kilby and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke here on various occasions.
Local lore attributes the origin of the name to a laborer involved in moving the original building. A bystander asked, "What do you have there?" and the laborer replied, "It's the Old Ship of Zion moving on."