First African Baptist Church

By WVUA 23 Student Reporter Deidre Hall and WVUA 23 Web Writer Christina Ausley

After years of empowering marches, emotional celebrations and close community, First African Baptist Church celebrated its 151st birthday this past Sunday, Nov. 12. Members could be heard singing and clapping as they rejoiced in another year of strength and progress.

It all began in 1866 with just 144 dedicated members, led by church founder Rev. Prince Murrell. The church has repeatedly been a part of Tuscaloosa’s most historical moments, once used as one of the headquarters for the Civil Rights Movement in West Alabama.

Nestled on the corner of Stillman Boulevard and T. Y. Rogers Avenue, First African Baptist Church remains one of Tuscaloosa’s oldest African American churches. Dipped in rich history, church members continuously reflect upon the strides they have made as a church and population.

“And we went through many marches, like marching here with Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Betty Lawson, who has attended the church for more than 50 years. “We did that. He was placed in one of the jails here in Tuscaloosa. Many other people joined us for civil rights here in the town not just for the freedom of ourselves, but for opportunities nonetheless.”

Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, Pastor T. Y. Rogers led in desegregating the Tuscaloosa area. Despite the clash of church members and police on what is formerly known as Bloody Tuesday, Lawson said the church’s heavy involvement with the community has been worth every second of battle.

“The blood that we shed, the inconvenience that went on and on and on,” Lawson said. “Through it all, it was for the benefit of humanity.”

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