Green Street Baptist Church History

Green Street Baptist Church began in the early part of 1844. The church’s initial efforts, was to organize the second African-American church in Louisville, Ky. In fact, “Second African Baptist Church” would have been the name of the church. On April 28, 1844, thoughts and discussions of creating more Baptist churches for coloured people, was held in a meeting by several leaders involved in the community and church. The first written records of the efforts are found at Green Street Baptist Church (Second African Baptist Church), Fifth Street Baptist Church (First African Baptist Church), and Walnut Street Baptist Church (First Baptist Church). It reads, "We this church, has been informed that a certain minister intends to establish a second coloured Baptist church in this city. Forthwith, now while we would be pleased to do anything in our power to promote the cause of Christ, yet, we believe such a movement in the bounds and under the sanction of this church at the present time, and under existing circumstance would be hazardous and likely to produce much mischief to the Baptist cause among the coloured community in this place. Therefore, resolved, that in the opinion of this church for us to encourage or sanction such a measure at this time would be inexpedient and unwise. Resolved, that any minister or members of this church who shall hereafter engage in any measures of this kind under existing circumstances will be regarded by the church as acting contrary to good order." The written records also state that First Baptist Church (Walnut Street Baptist Church) conducted a regular meeting on July 20, 1844, which they discussed “Second African Baptist Church”. The record reads: "A communication was received from Brother George Wells, a man of colour, who has been preaching for some time past to people of colour in the city. A committee was appointed to consider the request." Brother George Wells’s request was not approved during this meeting. The final decision of Brother George Wells’s request, was made on September 25, 1844 during a call meeting, which was held by First Baptist Church. The record reads, "On motion was voted that Brother George Wells, a man of colour, be received into the church and be encouraged to go on with his ministerial labours to our coloured friends in the city and that Brethren Heth, Bagley, Clark, Hampton, and Wilson be appointed a committee to advise and superintend Brother Wells in his labour." The Protection Committee was given their first assignment. On September 29, 1844, twenty-eight African Americans met for the constitution of the Second African Baptist Church (Green Street Baptist Church). On the first Sunday, in January of 1848, Second African Baptist Church moved into its new home, which is located on the north side of Green Street (It is called Liberty Street today) between Preston Street and Floyd Street. The church bought the building from Brother William C. Buck and the East Baptist Church for $2,815. The building was the worship site for East Baptist Church for six years. Second African Baptist Church struggled financially. The upkeep of the building was a sacrifice for a small group of black believers during slavery. However, with the blessing of the Lord, the church grew, and the property was paid for in four years. Although the church grew and had a membership of 280 people, it lost a member. Brother George E. Wells died in 1850. The new leader of the church was Reverend Caddie. Second African Baptist Church had plenty of success as they grew. In fact, three churches were organized as independent churches by Second African Baptist Church— Forest Baptist Church (Newburg Baptist Church) in 1873, First Baptist Church (Anchorage Baptist Church) in 1874, and, Hill Street Baptist Church in 1896. The church also voted to allow George Thomas to organize the first choir. As the church grew and changed, so did the leaders, location and name of the church. The church would be called Green Street Baptist Church soon and the new church would be at 519 East Gray Street. The church’s Building Fund Committee hired a local black firm of Plato & Evans to construct the new building. The cost of the construction was $100,000. A ground-breaking ceremony was held in conjunction with the 1928 National Baptist Convention, to allow the president of the convention and others to participate. On Sunday, September 28, 1930, the last service was conducted in the "old church", which had been home for 86 years. The members proudly marched from Green Street to Gray Street. With a lingering depression and a mortgage, the church faced financial hardships. However, with prayer, sacrifice, dedication, and vigilance, the pastor, officers, and members worked to pay the mortgage. On September 24, 1944, with cause to commemorate and celebrate, Green Street observed its Centennial and burned the mortgage. Green Street was also actively involved in the struggle for civil rights for blacks as early as 1886. The church circulated a petition urging the state legislature to pass a Civil Rights Bill. In 1893 and1919, Green Street hosted meetings and participated in the successful movement to defeat the efforts to segregate the public transportation system in Louisville. The church joined the Interracial Commission headed by Dr. James Bond in 1920. Green Street was one of the first institutions to give support to the 1961 student led sit-in movement to desegregate public accommodations in Louisville when three of its members, Raoul Cunningham, John Arnold, and Lawrence Williams were among the first five arrested. On August 3, 1967, Green Street hosted a city-wide rally to encourage blacks to register and vote. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke and made his last appearance in Louisville at this rally. Today, the church is a member of the East Louisville Community Ministry, the West Louisville Community Ministry, Life Member of the NAACP, and our pastor, Reverend Carl Jones, serves on the Executive Board of the Louisville Urban League. Green Street has been blessed. It is one of the few African American churches possessing a complete history of existence. During one hundred and fifty years, the church has been led by eight pastors. Three pastors served until death, and two voluntarily retired after more than thirty-five years of service. Green Street has never had a split in membership and has always settled differences of opinion according to the New Testament doctrines and Baptist principles.