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Fri, 04.30.1909

The Holt Street Baptist Church Begins Services

Holt Street Baptist Church

*The Holt Street Baptist Church is celebrated on this date in 1909. This was a Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama.

The Holt Street Baptist Church building is located at the corner of Holt Street and Bullock Street, was completed in 1913. The first reverend was I.S. Fountain. From 1939 until 1952, Charles Kenzie Steele was pastor. The church served as a meeting place for Montgomery's Black community during the Montgomery bus boycott. After Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white passenger, the Women's Political Council, a Black civil rights organization founded in Montgomery, organized a boycott of the city's buses by members of the black community.

A leaflet distributed to thousands of Montgomery's black citizens read: "don't ride the bus to work, to town, to school, or any place. Monday, December 5". The final sentence read: "come to a mass meeting Monday at 7:00 pm at the Holt Street Baptist Church for further instructions". The boycott began the following Monday, December 5, 1955, the day Parks appeared in court. That evening, a mass meeting was held at the Holt Street Baptist Church to evaluate the boycott's success. The church was the largest and most central church in the Black community and had a large basement that could accommodate hundreds, as well as a spacious main auditorium. Loudspeakers were placed into smaller rooms of the church, and there was a large outdoor area for people to gather.

On December 3, 1956, King attended the Holt Street Baptist Church where a young Martin Luther King Jr. from the city's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church addressed the audience, describing the indignities suffered by Montgomery's Black citizens and stating: "there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression." He delivered a speech entitled "Facing the Challenge of the New Age". Several thousand attended the meeting, it was the opening address of a week-long "Institute of Non-Violence and Social Change", organized by the Montgomery Improvement Association

Rosa Parks wrote:  By the time I arrived at the meeting, the church was so filled up that a crowd of hundreds spilled out into the street, and speakers had to be set up outside to accommodate everyone. The excitement around the church was electrifying, and I remember having a sense that something powerful was being born. I squeezed my way through the crowd to my seat on the platform, where a lively discussion about the boycott strategy was underway.  The meeting at the Holt Street Baptist Church began the year-long Montgomery bus boycott.

A court case, Browder v. Gayle, was launched claiming that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. On November 14, 1956, while the boycott continued, the Supreme Court ordered the state of Alabama to desegregate its buses. That evening, mass meetings were organized at both the Hutchinson Street Baptist Church and the Holt Street Baptist Church. King spoke at both meetings, where 8,000 attendees voted unanimously to end the boycott when the Supreme Court decision took effect. Built-in 1913, the church closed in 1998, when the congregation moved to a new location called "The Village", located on South Court Street in Montgomery.

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