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.