The First African Baptist Church is Richmond's oldest black Baptist congregation. Many enslaved men and women in the Richmond area worked for tobacco manufacturers six days a week and worshiped with Free Blacks on the seventh. Before the Civil War, they met in a church erected in 1802 at College and Broad streets. The church was integrated, but the black congregation continuously petitioned to have their own place of worship; and in 1841, the state legislature finally permitted the establishment of Richmond's first black Baptist church. Though African Americans were able to worship in their own church, they were required by law to have a white pastor. Dr. Robert Ryland, the first president of Richmond College, was the first pastor. The church grew under his leadership, but the congregation sought a black pastor after the fall of the Confederacy in June of 1865. A new church, modeled after the old, was constructed in 1878, and a church organ was purchased in 1886. The First African Baptist Church remained at College and Broad Streets until 1955, when the Medical College of Virginia purchased the property, and the congregation purchased the former Barton Heights Baptist Church on Richmond's north side.
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Geographical and Contact Information
310 College Street