Seymour's parents had both been born into slave families, his father served in the first all-black regiment of the United States Army. When born his parents were Catholic. In 1891 he set of on his travels across America seeking to escape the poverty and oppression of the South and to find a better life elsewhere. In Indianapolis he was converted and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. For the blacks of this time the church was the only real place of freedom and liberty which they found by faith in Christ. From the beginning Seymour was always a strong premillennialist, such views were rejected by those Methodists around him. He soon joined the new more militant holiness movement that rose up out of the ashes of Methodism and also joined various more radical groups within this movement. Amongst these believers there was a genuine unity between black and whites because of the Blood of Jesus. Amongst them also he was taught concerning an unprecedented outpouring of the Holy Ghost that was to come before Jesus returned. In these churches holiness, healing and the second coming were preached.
It was after he was afflicted by a severe case of smallpox which left his face scarred and left him blind in one eye, that he finally answered the call of God which he had long resisted. In 1905 he arrived in Houston, here he took over a temporary position of pastoring a church. It was also here that for the first time he heard of believers in Topeka who had been baptized in the Holy ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Late that year Charles F. Parnham moved to Houston where he opened a short term Bible School similar to the one in Topeka. Seymour attended all meetings and enrolled in the five week school. It was an entensive environment of prayer, fasting, Bible study and evangelistic outreach. Because of segregation laws he had to listen to lessons from the hall and was not allowed to come to the altar along with the whites. From this time he was persuaded by the Word of God that tongues was the scriptural sign of the baptism. At times he preached by Parham's side to those in black area's. Seymour felt God calling him to go to California. Those at the school helped raise the money for his journey and sent him with God's blessing expecting him to return in about a month.
When he arrived in Los Angeles in 1906 the lynching of blacks had reached a high in America. God had chosen a weak one eyed newly arrived black preacher to stand at the centre of what he was about to do. A small group of simple believers had been praying for three years for the power of God in order to reach sinners. It was to these Seymour came. Meetings started at the end of February, after several meetings he was locked out of the meeting place mainly because of his belief in the Millennium and his belief in the sign of tongues. He found himself without a place to preach, a roof over his head or money in his pocket. Invited to stay with a new friend he turned to the Lord in a time of prayer and fasting. For a few years it had been his normal pattern to spend several hours a day in prayer.
Throughout March a small group of believers gathered at Bonnie Brae Avenue where Seymour continued to preach. One day as he preached on Acts 2v4 the Holy Ghost fell upon all those gathered. One lady called Jennie Moore (who later became Seymour's wife) broke forth in various tongues interpreting each in English, she then went to the piano and began to play as she sang in tongues even though she had never played before. Others fell into trances for as long as five hours, this meeting overflowed into the front yard with one brother preaching and prophesying. This meeting lasted for three days and nights. The porch of the house became the pulpit and the street the church, hundreds were being saved, healed and filled with the Holy Ghost.
On the third day Seymour received his baptism at 4 in the morning after an all night of prayer. During these early days all was spontaneous, people were being filled without being prayed for, hands laid on them or urged to anything, it was just an outpouring on hungry souls. Word spread widely in the city and a building was sought.
An old mission was found on Azusa Street down a dirt lane. The building was very rough, it was more of a horse barn than anything, sawdust was scattered on the dirt floor and to some eyes it was not suitable for people at all. But in the middle of this humble building a pulpit was set up made of two wooden crates and around this seating was arranged in a square. This mission would be called the Apostolic Faith Mission. They started with about a hundred people, soon growing to 800 and then 1200 with no room to enter. That summer in just one service they baptised about 500 new converts. Amongst those who gathered it seemed every colour and nation was represented.
The upstairs room was kept for prayer, it became a present day upper room where men and woman sought the baptism and healing. Lining its walls in later times were all sorts of things like crutches left by those who were healed by God. Offerings were never taken, a box was left for free-will offerings. From here Seymour published his paper called The Apostolic Faith which eventually had a distribution of 50'000 for each issue worldwide.
For three years meetings continued like this without a break. It was one continuous service. The building was never empty. As a result of this a great many mighty conversions came about. There were many testimonies of sceptics converted through the supernatural operation of tongues in the meetings. They believed this outpouring was power for service, to reach a lost world.
In those early days there was an order and guarding of the work, Seymour said "this gospel cost too much to run off into fanaticism." Tongues were not aloud during preaching, attendance to the Word was primary and soul saving came next. If someone got too loud Seymour called them to order and was known to rebuke people publicly who ran off in the flesh. His manner of preaching was plain, simple, fervent, direct, controlled and anointed with the power of the Holy Ghost. He spoke with great love in the fear of God. He was noted for spending most of the time in meetings seated behind the shoe box pulpit with his head in the top one in a constant state of quiet prayer. He was a humble, meek, usable man of God. One brother said of him "His power is in his weakness. He seems to maintain a helpless dependence on God." Another said "His strength is in his conscious weakness and lowliness before God."
The noise of this work spread across the city, nation and world, Pentecost had come. Within two to three years Pentecostal works had been established in 50 countries.