7th Ave First Baptist Church of Nashville

First African-American Church in Nashville

Nashville’s First Baptist Church on this site, was the fourth church established and used by First Baptist Church of Nashville. The congregation that called this church home dated back to July 22, 1820. The congregation was formed by 35 members of Mill-Creek Baptist Church who wanted to separate from Mill-Creek, which was a white congregation. Nashville first Baptist ministers ministered to black and white parishioners, but they were typically segregated.

In 1853, the church appointed its first black minister, a slave named Nelson Merry, to oversee the ministries of the African-American community. Merry was born in Kentucky and brought to Nashville by his owner in 1840 where he was later introduced to the Nashville Baptist Church. The church employed him and baptized him. Eventually, he began preaching to the First Colored Baptist Church, which had been organized by the white congregation in 1843. Merry became the first ordained African-American minister in Nashville. Around 1866, Merry had a congregation of over 2000 and his church was able to pull become independent from the white church.

The 1886 structure was replaced in the 1960s by a new building designed by Edwin Keeble (who also designed Christ Cathedral on Broadway and 9th Street). Originally, the congregation did not want to keep the Gothic-style bell tower from the previous building, but eventually they decided keep it as a remembrance of the church's long history.

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108 7th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203