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Thu, 02.25.1869

Wheat Street Baptist Church is Formed

*Wheat Street Baptist Church is celebrated on this date in 1869. This is a historic black Baptist church in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia.

The church was founded by members of First Baptist Church in Atlanta (now known as Friendship Baptist Church) who wanted a place of worship closer to where they lived. Seven members founded Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church on Howell Street, originally holding service under a bush arbor. Andrew Jackson served as the church's first pastor until 1874. The church relocated several times before moving to its present location on Auburn Avenue (at the time known as Wheat Street).

In 1881, the church supported the Atlanta washerwomen strike, as a meeting of over 500 strikers was held in the church. In 1894, the Butler Street YMCA was formed in the basement of the church building. From 1898 to 1928, P. James Bryant served as the church's pastor. The building was built in August 1921 after the previous building was destroyed in the Great Atlanta fire of 1917. In 1932, Wheat Street hosted a meeting of the NAACP. In 1937, William Holmes Borders became the church pastor, a position he would hold until 1988.

Borders became a prominent American Civil Rights movement activist, influencing a young Martin Luther King Jr. King, who often attended sermons held by Borders, whose wife had been King's English teacher. Wheat Street is notable for its community outreach programs. On March 7, 1956, it became one of the first churches in the United States and the first black church to sponsor a federal credit union.

The current building is adjacent to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park. The church also maintains a charitable foundation and housing ministry, and in 1999 held over $33 million worth of real estate, making it one of the richest black churches in the United States.

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