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Tue, 01.30.1877

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church is Founded

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

*On this date in 1877, we celebrate Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.  This is a Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama, affiliated with the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Freedmen and free people of color organized the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church congregation. It was first known as the Second Colored Baptist Church. The church trustees paid $270 on January 30, 1879, for a lot at the corner of what is now Dexter Avenue and Decatur Street. The first church building was a small wood-frame building. The congregation began constructing a new building in 1883; the brick building was not completed until 1889.

The church began serving the broader Black community on October 3, 1887, when it hosted the first registration of students for Alabama State University. In 1899, William H. McAlpine became pastor; he was a co-founder of Selma University. Vernon Johns, an early leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, served as pastor from 1947 to 1952. He was succeeded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pastor of the church from 1954 to 1960.

He organized the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott from his basement office. Near the church is the former Dexter Parsonage, which served as home to twelve pastors of the church between 1920 and 1992. It is now operated as the Dexter Parsonage Museum, interpreting church history. The church was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1974 because of its importance in the American Civil Rights movement of American history. In 1978 the official name was changed to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in memory of Dr. King Jr.

The church was added, on its own merits, to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The church is located steps away from the Alabama State Capitol. On January 1, 2008, the US Government submitted the church to UNESCO as part of an envisaged future World Heritage Site nomination because of this important history. It is on the UNESCO "Tentative List of World Heritage Sites."

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