Historical African American Churches of Brooklyn, NY

African-Americans of the John Street Methodist Church of NYC left to form their own church after several acts of overt discrimination by white members
African-Americans of the John Street Methodist Church of NYC left to form their own church after several acts of overt discrimination by white members

History

There are many historical churches in Brooklyn, New York. Once there was a time when African-American slaves and freemen, and whites worshiped together before The Emancipation Proclamation. That cohesiveness changed when men like Minster Alexander McCaine, publicly defended slavery, and publish a pamphlet entitled "Slavery Defended from Scripture." African-Americans were discouraged from attending certain churches by being charged a fee to sit and/or were segregated in the congregation. African-Americans deciding that it was better to form their own congregation than tolerate insults and attacks on their human race. This action demonstrated the determination of African-Americans to oppose racism and their desire for independence.

 First Free Congregational Church, later Bridge Street AWME
First Free Congregational Church, later Bridge Street AWME

Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church.

Generations of families still worship at these churches. The families have invested in the rich history of each church and the neighboring community. Some church buildings have changed functions over the years. Others have been destroyed by fire and rebuilt.

One of the historic Black churches of Bridge Street AWME Church is located at 277 Stuyvesant Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. The original location of the church was 311 Bridge Street, Brooklyn, NY, thus the name. In 1854, after moving to Bridge Street in Brooklyn, the church changed its name to Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church. Documented as the oldest continuing black congregation in the Brooklyn-Long Island area, the church was organized in 1766 and incorporated in 1818. The new congregation applied for and received official recognition from the state of New York as the First African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church (AWME). Runaway slaves were once hidden in the basement of the Church a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today the site is the Student Center of Polytechnic University. They had the first black church in Brooklyn. It was located in Weeksville, one of the first black communities in the city.

 Fire destroyed the building in October 1952.
Fire destroyed the building in October 1952.
 The present brick building was opened c.1956.
The present brick building was opened c.1956.

Concord Baptist Church of Christ

The Baptist Church also shared a rich history. Concord Baptist Church of Christ was conceived one evening on May 18, 1847. Rev. White was a well-known abolitionist was the first pastor. He led the Concord congregation in taking an active role in the anti-slavery movement. Many members used their homes and church as “refuge” for runaway slaves. What is most significant is the second pastor, a runaway slave named Rev. Leonard Black. Leonard Black’s written memoirs entitled, “The Life and Sufferings of Leonard Black, A Fugitive From Slavery” showed Leonard Black was determined to get an education and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He escaped slavery to the north. The passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required Free states to return runaway slaves to their former owners. Even as pastor, Black was forced to keeping running, and resigned from the Church.

The Church is located at 833 Gardner C. Taylor Blvd. Brooklyn, New York 11216. The street was formerly known as Marcy Avenue, named for Gardner Calvin Taylor from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In March 1948, the congregation called him to be their pastor. Dr. Taylor led the church fully into the national struggle for civil rights in the United States. Dr. Taylor was influential in helping to found a new national fellowship, the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

3 Historical church buildings
3 Historical church buildings
Second Church building
Second Church building

Berean Baptist Church

The mixed racial group comprising Berean Baptist Church was incorporated on August 1850.The church located in historical district of Weeksville was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Abolition church was organized under the pastorate of a white minister, Rev. Daniel Resse. Later the white members moved to another location. Berean Baptist Church was built in 1894 by the African American congregation. The building known as Old Berean has been altered but still stands today and is used for multi - purpose activities by the Berean congregation and community. The church is located at 1635 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11213-2416.

First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church of Brooklyn.

September 25, 2010 marked the 125th anniversary of the First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church of Brooklyn. In 1872, part of the congregation decided to leave Bridge Street AME Church and organize another church. The Fleet Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Brooklyn, New York began in 1885 with just fifteen people. There was a split and the larger part of the congregation moved to a new location leaving behind the fifteen. The Fleet Street building was used until 1905 when the Church was incorporated under the religious corporation laws of New York State and officially became the First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church of Brooklyn, New York.

The First African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church of Brooklyn has worshiped since the 1940s in the building originally built for the Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church. Location of the church is 54 McDonough Street at Tompkins Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11216

Building burned and destroyed
Building burned and destroyed

The Siloam Presbyterian Church

The Siloam Presbyterian Church was founded in 1849. The church was a stop on the Underground Railroad. According to church records, John Brown stopped at Siloam on his way to Harper's Ferry. The Prince Street location where the church was established had to be wrecked in 1891. Eminent domain claimed the Prince Street property for the new Manhattan Bridge approach, so there was no rebuilding on the site. Siloam journeyed from Prince Street to Lafayette Avenue finally locating at Jefferson and Marcy Avenues in 1944. The building became vacant when Central Presbyterian merged with the Bedford Presbyterian Church. The building dates back to 1936. The address is 260 Jefferson Avenue (at the corner of Marcy and Jefferson Avenues) in Brooklyn.

 Antioch Baptist Church
Antioch Baptist Church

Architecture

If one has an interest in church architectures, there are many more churches to see such as Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ. The church can be found at 506 MacDonough Street, Brooklyn, NY 11233. The Nazarene Congregational Church is more than 136 years old and is one of the oldest congregations in Brooklyn, New York established in 1873.

Some of the churches have historical organs which can be found in Kinzey, Allen, and Sand Lawn, comps. E.M. Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner Opus List. New Rev. Ed. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1997.

Several of the church buildings were occupied by other congregation making for a very interesting history. Reverend Moses Prophet Paylor, D.D.was credited with founding and organizing the Antioch Baptist Church in 1918. A charter member of the Eastern Baptist Association of Brooklyn and Long Island, which held its first meeting at the Antioch Baptist Church in 1922. Antioch Baptist Church is located at 826-828 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11221 (Between Lewis and Stuyvesant). The church was visited by many notables in the 1980s including Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and New York’s Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller.

This is just a sample of the rich history of Black churches in Brooklyn, NY. There are white and multiracial churches, as well as churches in other parts of the city that were not mentioned.

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Comments 4 comments

RevLady profile image

RevLady 5 years ago from Lantana, Florida

Very interesting commentary on the beginnings of New York's historic African American churches. Thank you.

Forever His


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

Wonderful hub- thank you so much. Although a native New Yorker, born in Harlem, it is only the last 20 years that I have lived in Brooklyn. But many of my elders have lived here in Brooklyn forever, bought brownstones, raised successful families, and one family was very active in the Concord Baptist church. As you wrote, these churches do more, so much more - they sustained these communities in every way - even the never ending battle to not only be human but to be left alone to thrive - thriving was common in African American communities, being left alone to do so was not. And thrive folks did. These churches truly made up a great part of the famous African Proverb - it take a village to raise a child.

Great history lesson here. Thanks a million!

Carolyn


dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 5 years ago from United States Author

Thank you RevLady and Carolyn for your comments. Brooklyn is such a cool place for history. I didn't appreciate the place fully until I moved. New York as a whole is filled w/history. I am so thankful that I got to visit these places.


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 3 years ago

Dashingclaire, This was an interesting and informative hub on the origins of some of the foundational African American Church history of Brooklyn. Thank You for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

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