Black American intellectualism and culture : a social study by James L Conyers

By James L Conyers

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A. ” African American members took with them the seats and pulpit from their former worship space in the basement and more than twenty years experience as a de facto separate religious body. More than six hundred African Americans—two-thirds of the congregation, led by Tichenor, Ellis, and Ashby—moved from First Baptist Church on Court Street to Columbus Street Baptist Church, a wooden, Gothicrevival structure with large windows, a high ceiling, and a tall steeple. Separation allowed for a large measure of autonomy for African Americans.

Separation allowed for a large measure of autonomy for African Americans. It took a few years, however, before members of the church would develop the financial means to sustain themselves. Until 1868, when Tichenor resigned his Montgomery pastorate, he remained closely involved in Columbus Street affairs. Other whites at First Baptist volunteered to help as well, especially with teaching Sunday school. Here whites’ involvement in securing separate religious facilities for blacks at once appealed to their paternalism and helped eliminate the possibility that African American majorities in white congregations might agitate for parity.

22 Two years would pass before an official dedication ceremony was held in Montgomery. In the interim, Holland Thompson, at the request of the white Southern Baptist Convention, established a separate Sunday school, which opened February 25, 1877, in a former slaver trader’s pen on Dexter Avenue. Like many other independent African American churches Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was indebted to the presence of missionaries. Joining Thompson on the Sunday school staff were white Northern missionaries, two sisters and a brother: Ann, Clarinda, and John Wilkins.

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