Organized in 1866, this pioneering congregation grew out of First Baptist Church, now on Perry Street, where early parishioners had worshipped as slaves. The first building, facing Columbus Street, was erected in 1867. Nathan Ashby served as first pastor (1866-70) to over 700 members and as first president of the Colored Baptist Convention of Alabama, now known as the Alabama Baptist State Convention, which was organized here in 1868. The Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, later part of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., was organized here in 1880. First Baptist hosted the first baccalaureate service for State Normal School, now Alabama State University, in 1890. Third pastor Dr. Andrew Jackson Stokes (1892-1924) organized the Montgomery Baptist Institute.
After fire destroyed the first frame church, Stokes led a
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rebuilding effort from 1910-1915. This Romanesque Revival style building was designed by architect W.T. Bailey of Tuskegee Institute and built largely of bricks donated by members, earning the name "Brick-A-Day Church." In 1916, membership was estimated over 5,000, making it the largest black Baptist congregation in America. This historic church is remembered for its role in the civil rights movement during the pastorate of Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy (1952-1961). On January 10, 1957, the church and its parsonage were bombed. Later that year it hosted the first Institute on Non-Violence and Social Change sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1961, Freedom Riders, church members, and others were held captive inside for 15 hours by an angry mob. U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard to ensure their safe exit the next morning.