A Blast From The Past
Road trip experience
A group of us women from our ministry center recently took a road trip to Douglas Georgia, to a women’s conference. The trip was awesome, we laugh and talked throughout the trip, it was a very nice experience.
The conference was wonderful and God moved mightily, the church, the pastor, and the congregation was blessed. God moved miraculously among the people and the anointing brought forth healing, restoration, and deliverance in the lives of the congregation that they had never experienced before. Everyone was on fire for the Lord and it brought all of us to a new level in God because He showed up and out in a big way as only God can do.
After the conference on the fourth day we continue our road trip and went to Downtown Savannah, Georgia to relax and take in the sights. Savannah has such a rich cultural and historical background and the place is quite beautiful.
The Oldest African Church
One of our stop included a tour of the oldest African American church in the United States today, it was certainly a blast from the past, and the pages of history came alive for me this day. This church is known as “The First African Baptist Church” today, but in 1778 the original name of the church was “The First Colored Baptist Church.” The pastor was Pastor George Leslie; he was the first ordained black pastor in Georgia. This church is one of the churches that housed runaway slaves during the civil war, it served as one of the stop point of the Underground Railroad.
The church is located in the heart of Savannah, Georgia in the National Historic Landmark District in Franklin Square. The church was build by hands, from beginning to end, and it is the first building to be constructed of bricks, made by African-American slaves and owned by African Americans in the state of Georgia.
Building this church was a long and tedious process because slaves were only allowed to do this work at night on their own time after completing a long day working on the plantation for their master. Can you imagine how hard this must have been for them; they must have worked 24 hours a day without sleep in order to complete the building of the church, which was to be their own sanctuary? They were a group of determined people and they persevere until the day of completion. When you have a goal and a plan in mind you ought not to give up on it, persevere and endure until you become victorious.
Our ancestors wanted to own something of their own and they took control and siege the opportunity to do so, they worked together as one with a common goal, and they worked with pride and dignity, and invested their sweat, blood and tears until the goal was accomplished.
The tour was an awesome and unforgettable experience; I enjoyed learning about the history of the church. Our tour guide was a young Christian man and he was very pleasant and informative, he was enthusiastic and charming and he made the entire experience enjoyable, it was not boring at all.
The tour of the church was a very profound experience; it was like being transported back in time because you were there in the very place where our ancestors suffer unusual punishment because they wanted their freedom. Being in the church you couldn’t help but to feel that link to the past and identify with, their pain, and their struggle.
History beneath the floor
In the basement of the church the floor boards serve as a painful reminder of the cruel ordeal our ancestors had to endure as price for their freedom. Beneath the floor in a 4 foot space is where the slaves hid and await safe passage on the Underground Railroad, and no one ever figured out that these symbols were in fact for ventilation purposes.
The flooring has several air holes form in a design meant to look like a tribal symbol, which in actuality these air holes served as a method of getting air, food, and water to the runaway slaves that took shelter beneath that floor board. There are 26 sets of air holes images that can be found in the basement of the church. The designs of the air holes were arranged in the shape of a diamond and in the center was a cross which represented the crossroads of life. The four points of the diamond represented birth, life, death, and after-death. This was indeed an ingenious way to survive; I guess desperate times called for desperate measures.
When I looked at this site my mind reflected back to the TV episodes of the mini-series of “Roots” where they captured Africans as slave and packed them in the bottom of the ship as sardines. That scene came alive for me in this moment and there were such a painful knot in my stomach, I felt like crying. The thing that impacted me the most was looking at the floor boards in the basement where they were fed food and water, those small holes how could they get sufficient food through those hole to adequately feed these people is what I was constantly thinking; my heart went out to them and the ordeal they went through, and I thank God that they did it for us, I’ll be ever so grateful to my ancestors.
Our ancestors were very intelligent people although they were denied the privilege of learning to read, their courageousness, resilience and their spiritual strength was ingrained into my mind, it was surreal. This church was literally build on the back of our ancestors, to hear how the women carried the bricks on their back tied in a sarong type wrap like mothers carried their babies, this was impressive. The long trip that they had to make throughout their tedious journey is an incredible testimony as to what faith can do, they never waivered, I marveled at their strength, courage, and fortitude. I couldn’t help but to think could we do that today if we were in their place or are we so spoil and weak we couldn’t survive what they went through?
The inside of the church is very impressive and beautiful, the pews are well crafted and the upstairs balcony contains some original pews made by slaves, they value over $12,000 a piece according to our tour guide. In the original pews there are hand crafted symbols of the slave with Hebrew writing. The windows have these beautiful crafted stain glassed which dates back to 1885 and it depicts the pictures of each African-American pastors throughout time that pastured the church.
In the ceiling there is a brilliant replica of a quilt pattern that served as a form of communication between slaves that their masters could not understand nor read.The quilt in the ceiling is a 9 patch quilt, it is a symbol use to identify safe places, there are many different quilt pattern with different symbols of secret code message embedded in them, the patterns was used in certain order to revealed places to go. These messages to slaves was to help them as they prepare to escape, each pattern represented a different meaning, some patterns used were “Monkey Wrench” “Star”, “Crossroads”, “Bear Claw” and “Wagon Wheel”. Quilts was a common site to see on a plantation so there were not suspicious to the naked eyes of the overseer or the plantation master, but they were informative to the trained eye of other slaves. Their method of communication was brilliant, impressive and very effective.
The church house a museum in the basement which contains archives and memorabilia’s dated back to the 18th century. The museum is open to visitors daily and there is a guided tour given to the public throughout the church.
The early church was damaged by a hurricane in the early 20th century where the original bell tower was destroyed, but it was rebuilt by the congregation using their own hands just as their ancestors did in the past. The present structure was erected in 1859 and the architecture is still one of excellence and beauty, and they are listed in the National Register of Historic places.
If you ever visit Savannah, Georgia this is one of the place I would highly recommend you touring, it’s a great way to connect to a time in history although not so pleasant but knowledgeable, this is a great piece of history that you can pass on to future generation.