History of First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia

1 Posted by - February 14, 2023 - Black History

First African Baptist Church was founded in 1773 in Savannah, Georgia, under the strict leadership of Reverend George Leile. During May 19775, George was ordained as the pastor of the church, and in December 1977, the whole church was officially formed as the main place for organized religious believers. During the leadership of church’s third pastor, Reverend Andrew C. Marshall, the property was obtained by the congregation where the current sanctuary is standing. Marshall always sought better knowledge for his coming generation, so he organized a Sunday school for children in North America and later renamed the church from “First Colored Baptist” to “First African Baptist.” The beautiful religious sanctuary was later completed in 1859 under the supervision of the fourth pastor, Reverend William J. Campbell.

Preserving the rich black history, the congregation was given strict instructions to take care of the sanctuary’s historical elements. All the historical items are placed behind the stained-glass windows installed by the church’s fifth pastor, Reverend George Gibson and can still be seen alongside the structure. The stained-glass window installed at the time of Rev. George Leile can be seen in front of the church, just outside the building. The whole church is beautifully designed and arranged considering many aspects of worshippers and students attending different religious practices.

The First African Baptist Church has been a great place for service and leadership the time it came into being. During the 19th century, the sixth pastor of the church, Reverend Emmanuel King Love, started a movement to establish the Savannah State University which was formerly famous as Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth. It was Rev. King Love whose hard work made the successful establishment of Paine College in Augusta, Georgia and Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

During the time of segregation, the First African Baptist church served as one of the largest gathering and worship places for both Black and White. It was not allowed for some Blacks to march alongside their graduating class in Savannah, Georgia. Instead of this, the First African Baptist Church used to organize a ceremony to honor such Black students. The famous civil rights museum that is located in Savannah, Georgia is named after the former pastor, Reverend Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert to honor him because of his intense hard work during the civil rights movement in the South.

Reverend Thurmond N. Tillman is the current pastor of the church and is serving as the 17th pastor. Tillman is serving since 1982 and is involved in many religious activities and organizational boards to empower the gorgeous people of Savannah, Georgia.

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  • Rhonda E. Amerson July 21, 2017 - 12:23 pm

    There is a slight typo! You say that Paster Leila was ordained in May 19775 but the church was founded in 1773??? Also, is December 1977 the correct date? The article is very interesting. I would to have the correct information before I share it to my Facebook timeline

    • Floyd July 24, 2017 - 2:08 pm

      I visited the outside of the church a couple of times and it does exist. The church has a lot across the street from its location that is valuable for am international hotel chain. The church refused to sell to the chain. Also in front of the church across the street are statues of General Chistopher and his soldiers of Haiti who helped the Colonist fight the British during the Revolutionary War. That area has great history for Blacks and all other citizens. Haiti was very instrumental helping the Colonist win their freedom from England. Also Haiti was indirectly responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. Only a small part of the Haitians and AM actions to make this country what it is today.

  • Mrs. B August 29, 2017 - 8:56 pm

    Visited this church while in Savannah 2 yrs ago. The history is incredible. A good bit of the original architecture, furnishings and relics still remain so as to be seen by all visitors. As part of the underground railroad, the secret hiding place for slaves remained undetected by the paddyrollers & slave catchers. You can view these hiding places and learn more about the history of FABC by taking a tour of the church, which is well worth the few dollars charged to assist with upkeep and maintenance.

  • Sergio Pallafor June 18, 2019 - 2:28 am

    Love what you are doing! Keep it up.

  • Christine Moore August 23, 2019 - 11:25 pm

    I visited the church about three years ago and was very surprised at all of the history that was not only right there at the church but all over Savannah as well. I would like to go back again and spend more than a couple of days exploring the history. I plan to take my granddaughter there some day.