ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
By 1860 the African American community thrived on the foundation of more than 16 churches and missions
throughout Baltimore. By 1900, more than 12 African American churches resided in Old West Baltimore alone.
They helped give birth to and nurture almost every civic institution in the community
Baltimore’s Historical Black Churches
Bethel AME Church
Founded 1785 by Rev. Daniel Coker, it is the oldest independent black institution in the city, yet very current administering to the needs of the West Baltimore community, it features a stunning Afrocentric mural in the sanctuary; one of the largest AME congregations in the nation; a second church is being built in Baltimore county; Sunday worship — 7am, 9am, and 11am; 1300 Druid Hill Avenue; 410-523-4273
Another Version In 1850, Baltimore held the largest denominational variety of African American churches in the country. On the eve of the Civil War, a reporter for New Yorks Weekly Anglo-African newspaper wrote No city where I have been can boast of better churches among our people. Baltimore churches are not a whit behind, either in beauty or attendance for our people are a church going people. The Bethel A.M.E. congregation began as a prayer group, the Colored Methodist Society, in 1787. Ten years later, the group became the Bethel Free African Society (BFAS), led by prayer leaders Jacob Forte and Caleb Hyland. In 1801 a black preacher named Daniel Coker joined the BFAS prayer group. Coker was an eloquent speaker, educator, and philosopher, and by 1810 became the head of a school that provided formal education to blacks. He became the first black Marylander to publish an abolitionists treatise, A Dialogue between a Virginian and an African Minister. In 1811 he became the first official pastor for Bethel, and the church became known as the African Methodist Bethel Church of Baltimore City with a roster of over 600 members.
In 1816 Bethel sent six delegates to Philadelphia, led by Coker, to help establish the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first denomination in the world to form on account of race. Coker was elected the first bishop of the A.M.E. Church by conference delegates, however, he declined and the next day Reverend Richard Allen was elected the first Bishop of the A.M.E. Church. Coker became the churchs first missionary to move to Liberia, West Africa.
In 1847, Bethel became the first A.M.E church to play instrumental music during services. Bethel, then located a half block away from todays City Hall, and helped organize the first conference of Free Negroes in 1852. In 1910, the church moved to its Druid Hill and Lanvale streets location. In the 1950s and 60s, clergy from Bethel participated in the protests against Jim Crow laws. Reverend Harrison Bryant, Pastor (1948-64), and Reverend Frank M. Reid II (1964-68) became involved in national and international civil rights activism. Rev. Reid marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Alabama. At the age of 85, Bryant was incarcerated for protesting at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C. 1300 Druid Hill Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217 BaltimoreFaithOrganizations
Douglas Memorial Community Church
Douglass Memorial Community Church split from Bethel A.M.E. forming its own congregation in 1925. Long time pastor Dr. Marion Bascom became intimately involved in civil rights. A Baltimore amusement parkGwynn Oak, which was segregated until August 1963became a flashpoint of the national Civil Rights Movement. Speaking about his involvement in the July 4, 1963 Gwynn Oak Park protests, Pastor Bascom stated:
I am the one who said all along I will not go to jail, but I will help others who go. But this morning I said to myself, I have nothing to lose but my chains. So if I do not preach at my pulpit Sunday morning, it might be the most eloquent sermon I ever preached.
Designed by Thomas Balbirnie in the Greek Revival style as the Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in 1857, the Douglas Memorial Community Church is one of the oldest public buildings in the area. Granite stairs and iron railings lead to the upper level main entrance. The brick columns sit on cast-iron bases and have a fluted cement stucco finish from the base to their Corinthian sandstone capitals. Several gas fixtures can still be found here.
Red sandstone or brownstone sills and Greek Revival bracketed cornices trim the doorways and window openings. Similar styles are repeated in the interior chancel and balconies. Reportedly built and installed by E. & G. Hook in 1866, the organ stands with many of its original pipes. The Narthex floor is surfaced with a multi-colored ceramic tile. The undercroft was designed to seat 600 while the sanctuary seats 1,000. BaltimoreFaithOrganizations
Enon Baptist Church
Founded in 1893, Enon is in on the cutting edge of community involvement and development. It recently founded the Harlem Park Academy which provides disciplined schooling and a healthy dose of math and science for over 100 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in a public, but private-like school; Edmondson and Schroeder Avenues; 410-728-1490.
First Baptist Church
Founded 1836 by Moses Clayton, who was formerly enslaved and became a lay minister; the original church was built by slaves and still contains artifacts such as pictures, newspapers, manumission papers and other memorabilia on display; Sunday worship — 11 am; 25 N. Caroline Street; 410-675-2333.
Lafayette Square Church
Also known as “Metropolitan United Methodist Church”; this church can be traced to the leadership of Truman Pratt (founder of Orchard Street Church) when he led prayer meetings in 1825; Sunday worship — 10am; 1121 W. Lafayette Street; 410-523-1366.
Leadenhall Baptist Church
Founded in 1873, the church stands as the second oldest black church edifice in Baltimore and is one of the largest; has many notable community outreach programs in South Baltimore; Sunday worship — 10am; 101 Leadenhall Street; 410-539-9334.
Macedonia Baptist Church
Macedonia Baptist Church started out in the loft of a Vincent Alley stable. Much of the credit for founding the church goes to W. Charles Lawson, Leander Jones and others, all former members of Union Church, who started with Sunday school and a prayer meeting in 1874. On September 29, 1874, a meeting was called to organize their new church. The church grew rapidly. First they remodeled the stable, replaced the floor and then installed seats.
At the meeting after prayers by Brother W. H. Hamer, sixteen members of Union Church presented a letter of commendation. Mr. Weishampel then presented and explained a Baptist manual which was unanimously adopted. Several prominent religious leaders from Old West Baltimore addressed the body including Rev. G.W. Sanderlin, pastor of Franklin Square Church, and Rev. Harvey Johnson of Union (Baptist) Church. On November 5, 1874, Macedonia was recognized by a council representing nine churches. 718 Lafeyette Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217 BaltimoreFaithOrganizations
Metropolitan United Methodist Church
Also known as Lafayette Square Church, Metropolitan United can be traced to the leadership of Truman Pratt, founder of the Orchard Street Church. Pratt led prayer meetings here in 1825. — 1121 W. Lanvale Street 410-523-1366
Orchard Street Church/Urban League
A former slave, Truman Pratt founded this church in 1825. It was known to be a key stop on the Underground Railroad on the way to freedom in northern states and Canada (tours by appt.). No longer an active church. It houses the Baltimore Urban League.; 512 Orchard Street; Urban League
Orchard Street Church was founded in 1825 by Truman Le Pratt, a former slave of Maryland Governor John Eager Howard. The congregation originally gathered in Le Pratts home, the only place of worship for African Americans in the community. The congregation grew quickly and built Orchard Street United Methodist Church in 1837, formerly known as the Metropolitan Methodist Episcopal Church.
The church provided housing, jobs, medical care and spiritual guidance to African Americans and others seeking freedom and equality. Closing its doors in 1970, the church remained vacant for 22 years until it reopened as the headquarters for the Baltimore Urban League (founded 1924).
Under the leadership of president and League CEO Roger Lyons, the structure was completely renovated. The League, under the leadership of President J. Howard Henderson, continues the churchs original mission: to advocate and provide social services for those in need. The site hosts several historical re-enactments that include excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sermons and Harriett Tubman helping slaves on the way to freedom. The building currently houses the Mt. Sinai congregation on Sundays and several after school programs. 512 Orchard Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 — 410-467-6400 BaltimoreFaithOrganizations
Payne Memorial AME Church
Founded 1897, Payne featured an eloquent speaker who has subsequently become a bishop, namely, the Reverend Dr. Vashti M. McKenzie, who has written several books; 1714-1716 Madison Avenue.
Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church
Founded 1787; founded a day school for African American children in 1797; the first building was acquired at 112-116 Sharp Street in 1802, and was the first church building owned by African Americans; it is the “Mother Church” of African American Methodist in Maryland; in 1825 thirteen members were pioneers in the settlement of Liberia; in 1848 Prince Hall Masons resided at te Church; 1967, Centenary Bible Institute, the predecessor of Morgan State University was established at the church; moved to its current location in 1898. The church also owns Mt. Auburn cemetery. A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK Sunday worship 11am; 1206 Etting Street at Dolphin; 410-523-7200.
Another Version — Named in honor of its original location, Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church descends from the first black congregation in Baltimore. In 1797, blacks gathered at 112-116 Sharp Street where the Maryland Society for the Abolition of Slavery opened the Baltimore African Academy, the Citys first prominent day school for blacks. The Society sold the property including the lot and building in 1802 to the black congregation. The church then constructed a new building on the property, which quickly became a community hub where people gathered to worship, discuss abolitionism and African colonization, raise money to purchase the freedom of slaves, hear advocates speak, and receive schooling.
In 1864, the church hosted the first regional conference for African American Methodists, resulting in the first appointment of black pastors and creation of a black governing board. Following its congregation into northwest Baltimore, the church erected the present building designed by Alphonsus Bieler in 1898. In 1921, Arthur M. Segoin, one of the few black architects in the country, designed the adjacent Community House, the first of its kind in Baltimore.
Throughout the late 19th century, this congregation ran the Sharp Street School, assisted in founding the Centenary Biblical Institute (becoming Morgan State College) and a city-wide ministerial alliance.
The church also operated an intelligence (employment) bureau, and founded Mt. Auburn Cemetery, one of the few early African American cemeteries in Baltimore, and where hundreds of prominent African Americans are buried including Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson, William A. Hawkins, and John H. Murphy, founder of The Afro-American Newspapers. In the 20th century, many civil rights activities found a home at Sharp Street Memorial Church.– Baltimore, MD 21217 BaltimoreFaithOrganizations
St Francis Xavier catholic Church/St. Francis Academy
Established in 1864, it is the oldest African American Catholic Church in the nation; the high school academy is operated by the Oblate Sisters of providence; 95% of recent graduates went on to college; Caroline Street & Oliver Street; Saturday and Sunday worship 7:30am; 10am; & 12:15pm; 410-727-3103
St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church
Founded 1888, it is the first parish in the world dedicated to St. Peter claver, Apostle of Slaves; the church also runs one of the oldest private elementary schools for African Americans in the country. Saturday worship 4pm; Sunday worship 8am & 11:30am; 1546 N. Freemont Avenue; 410-669-0512.
Trinity Baptist Church
Founded in June 1888, Trinity Baptist Church sprouted from a Sunday school in East Baltimore and in 1920 moved into the former St. Paul Lutheran Church building. Its founder, Reverend Dr. Gamett Russell Waller, started with 14 members. Trinity Baptist grew to become an influential congregation which helped pioneer a kindergarten teachers training program, an evening training school for ministers, and the Baptist Ministers Conference. Trinity also became integral in the Baltimore Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Waller was Marylands representative to the Niagara Movement, a national civil rights organization founded in 1905 and spearheaded by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois that predated the NAACP.
Dr. Waller who co-founded Baltimores NAACP and the Colored YMCA with Dr. Harvey Johnson and Mr. S.S. Booker, a Trinity Baptist lay member, was 11th General President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and its first General Secretary. The 7th pastor, Reverend William C. Calhoun, Sr., established the first ecumenical TV broadcast ministry, Lift Every Voice, portraying the diversity of worship in black churches in 1980, and lasting nearly 25 years on Baltimores WMAR TV. The church is aligned with the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the American Baptist Churches, USA. 1600 Druid Hill Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217 BaltimoreFaithOrganizations
Union Baptist Church
Founded in 1852, Union Baptist became a center for the civil rights struggle. Its pastor was also the founder of the Colored Convention, which evolved into today’s United Baptist Association. Union Baptist moved to Druid Hill Avenue in 1905. The church, especially under the leadership of Dr. Harvey Johnson, led many civil rights initiatives including the creation of the Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty, and helped co-found the Niagara Movement and the NAACP Baltimore Chapter. During the 1960s, mostly under the direction of Dr. Vernon Dobson, Union Baptist Church became a meeting place for many civil rights activities including Baltimores participation in the 1963 March on Washington. 1219 Druid Hill Avenue; 410-523-6880
* * * * *
By 1860 the African American community thrived on the foundation of more than 16 churches and missions throughout Baltimore. By 1900, more than 12 African American churches resided in Old West Baltimore alone. They helped give birth to and nurture almost every civic institution in the community: Provident Hospital, the YMCA and YWCA, the Du Bois Circle, Niagara MovementBaltimore Chapter, Morgan College, the Young People Movement, and many more. Within the walls of the church, a sense of security hovered, eclipsing Baltimores often racist society.
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
updated !9 March 2010