Alvelyn Sanders-Swafford is an ordained minister, writer, and filmmaker. She serves as a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church denomination. She is the writer, producer, and director of the independent, award-winning documentary, “Foot Soldiers: Class of 1964.” As a writer and journalist, her work has appeared in Essence magazine and the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper among other publications. For many years, she served as a contributing reporter for Atlanta’s NPR (National Public Radio) station, WABE 90.1FM.

She is the pastor of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama in the North Avondale neighborhood. First appointed to St. James in 2017, she is the first woman pastor of the church since its founding in 1892. Sanders-Swafford received her Bachelor of Science degree in Radio-TV-Film from Northwestern University.

She has a Master of Arts degree in African-American Studies from Clark Atlanta University, as well as the Master of Theological Studies and Master of Divinity degrees from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Additionally, Sanders- Swafford has studied at the City of London Polytechnic in London, England. “Foot Soldiers: Class of 1964” premiered in the 2012 BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta, before making its television debut on Atlanta’s PBS station, WPBA-TV30. “Foot Soldiers: Class of 1964” received two awards at the 21 st Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in February 2013: Best Documentary Short (57mins) in the juried competition, and Audience Favorite in the Documentary Short category. It tells the story of the women of the Class of 1964 at Spelman College who participated in the largest, coordinated series of protests in Atlanta’s history during their freshman year. Sanders-Swafford and her mother, Dr. Georgianne Thomas, a Spelman College alumna who tells her story in the film, produced the project together. (

While serving as a longtime reporter, host, and producer at WABE-90.1 FM (NPR), Sanders- Swafford received an award for her work from the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, and a fellowship from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. As a writer, her work has been published in Essence magazine, Black Issues Book Review, Northwestern (University) magazine, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As an arts producer, Sanders-Swafford worked as a consultant or staffer for six consecutive annual festivals at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, in the Literary, Theatre, and Visual Arts components.

Finally, she has served as an Instructor at Morris Brown College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, and Atlanta Metropolitan State College. Sanders- Swafford was one of 15 writers selected to participate in the inaugural Master Class of Memoir Writing at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. As a member of the faculty at Morris Brown College, she was one of twenty instructors selected nationally to participate in the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation Faculty Seminar on the television entertainment industry held in Los Angeles.

Sanders-Swafford is an ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She served as the pastor of New Magnolia AME Church in Bessemer, AL, and Greater St. Paul AME Church in Florence, AL, before her current appointment at St. James AME Church. Sanders- Swafford began her ministry in the AME Church at Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where she served for many years as a member and as an Assistant Minister. During her time there, she provided leadership for numerous ministries at the local church and district levels.

Sanders-Swafford is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is married to Reverend Raymond Swafford, the pastor of Hopewell AME Church – Kingston in Birmingham, Alabama.