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Sat, 08.01.1840

The Twelfth Baptist Church (Boston) is Founded

Twelfth Baptist Church

*The Twelfth Baptist Church was dedicated on this date in 1840. This is a historic church in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The Twelfth Baptist Church was established when a group of 36 dissenters broke with the First Independent Baptist Church, which met in what is now known as the African Meeting House. The exact reason for the split is not apparent.

According to some historians, the dissenters wanted to take a more aggressive stand against slavery than the other members. In addition, the First Independent Baptist Church had not had a permanent minister for some time, which may have given rise to general disagreements on how to run the church. 

The new congregation moved to Phillips Street in Beacon Hill, led by Rev. George H. Black, a Baptist minister and native of the West Indies. The Rev. Leonard Grimes was its first pastor in 1848. Grimes was an abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor who had served two years in prison for attempting to rescue a family of enslaved people in Virginia. Under his leadership, the church became known as "The Fugitive Slave Church." The church aided scores of escaped enslaved people, and many chose to join the congregation. Grimes served as pastor until he died in 1873.

Early members included Lewis Hayden, George Washington WilliamsEdward Mitchell BannisterChristiana CarteauxWilhelmina Crosson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Shadrach MinkinsAnthony Burns, Thomas Sims, Peter Randolph, and John S. Rock. In 1907, the church moved to the former Jewish temple Mishkan Tefila at 47 Shawmut Avenue in Roxbury. It later moved to its current location at 150-160 Warren Street. The church has had many notable pastors and members.

Rev. George Washington Williams, its second pastor, wrote a history of the church in 1874. Rev. J. Allen Kirk wrote an oft-cited account of the Wilmington massacre of 1898.  Rev. Matthew A. N. Shaw was president of the National Equal Rights League of Boston and organized the Negro Sanhedrin conference of 1924. Wilhelmina Crosson taught Sunday School at the Twelfth Baptist Church in the 1940s. Rev. William Hunter Hester wrote a history of the Twelfth Baptist Church in 1946.

Dr. Michael E. Haynes was active in the American Civil Rights movement and represented Roxbury in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in the 1960s. Haynes was instrumental in founding the Boston/Roxbury campus of Godron-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1976. The Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME) provides "ministerial training for Hispanic/Latino, African American, Asian and other ethnic minority pastors and church leaders in Boston and throughout the U.S." On September 20, 2021, King Boston donated $1 million to support the church.



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