Spiritual and Social Places
Sign #6 266 E. Short Street
Churches have profoundly shaped the African-American experience in Lexington. Black congregations offered some forms of freedom from the daily oppressions witnessed during times of enslavement and the brutalities of Jim Crow. Next to family, churches were the most important institution for Lexington’s African-American communities. Black solidarity was strengthened through the equality of worship in, and control over, these institutions. Churches served as larger cultural centers, providing some of the first and only educational opportunities available to blacks, creating space for economic cooperation, and opportunities for entertainment and socializing.
Lexington’s First African Baptist Church was the first black church west of the Allegheny Mountains. Established around 1790 by Peter Durrett “Old Captain”, a slave and believed to be the first black preacher in Kentucky, the church congregations split over the decades to create both the Main Street Baptist Church (608 W. Main St.) and the Historic Pleasant Green Baptist Church (540 W. Maxwell St.). Between 1850 and 1854, First African Baptist (264-272 E. Short St.) was Kentucky’s largest congregation, black or white, with about 2,000 worshipers.
Other important religious institutions include: St. Paul AME Church (251 N. Upper St), East Second Street Christian (146 Constitution St.), Consolidated Baptist Church (1625 Russell Cave Rd), and Saint Peter Claver Catholic Church (410 Jefferson St). These churches have provided guidance in daily and political life throughout the decades.
At the beginning of the Black Freedom Struggle of the 1960’s, Pastor William Jones, Sr. offered his congregation as the common meeting grounds for Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) members. As the struggle intensified and membership rose in these groups, other religious institutions joined in the strategic planning for equality.