Distant photograph of that First African Baptist Church in Richmond with a group of Blacks in front of it
Original Author: Unknown
Created: 1865
Medium: Wet collodion glass-plate negative; one half of stereograph

First African Baptist Church

African Americans gather near the First African Baptist Church on Broad Street in Richmond in the aftermath of that city's fall to Union forces in April 1865. The church had been established in 1841 as Richmond's first all-Black Baptist church, but state law required that an all-white committee oversee the church and a white minister serve as pastor. After the fall of the Confederacy, the Black congregation wanted an African American to lead the church; in 1867 Dr. James H. Holmes became the first Black pastor, serving for thirty-two years. Henry Brown, an enslaved man who later escaped and became known as Henry Box Brown, attended the church. So did the blacksmith Gilbert Hunt, who in 1811 helped rescue people trapped in a devastating fire at the Richmond Theatre, which was located just one block from the church. Hunt later became one of the first deacons at the First African Baptist Church.