The city of Tuscaloosa is home to several historic churches. These church buildings vary in size and style, but all have played important roles in the history of Tuscaloosa.
From the charter ceremonies for the University of Alabama to the organization of events related to the Civil Rights movement, these churches played an integral part in the formation of our city. Check out the five historic churches mentioned below.
Christ Episcopal Church
First Presbyterian Church
This historic church dates back to 1820, one year after Tuscaloosa’s incorporation and Alabama’s admission to the Union. Presbyterians from Pendleton, South Carolina, started the First Presbyterian Church (see below), known as Bethel Church when 16 of them settled on the banks of the Black Warrior River. After the Civil War, when many former slaves desired their own churches, Dr. Charles Stillman, FPC’s minister, founded a school to train African-American ministers. People now know it as Stillman College.
Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church
Located on the campus of Stillman College, this church remains active today and keeps a close relationship with the college. Dr. Charles Stillman, minister of First Presbyterian Church, founded Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church (see above) as the Salem Presbyterian Church in 1880, assisting the black members of his church to start their own. It stands as the oldest black Presbyterian church in Alabama.
St. John’s Catholic Church
Although Catholics first met in Tuscaloosa in 1819, they held their first service in this quaint little church in 1846. As the influx of Irish immigrants increased the Catholic population, Tuscaloosa welcomed its first Catholic priest in 1844. In 1845, they erected St. John’s Catholic Church (see below); they later added a tower and bell. Today, St John the Baptist Church serves as a mission church of the parish of Holy Spirit.
First African Baptist Church
Located on Stillman Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, they built the First African Baptist Church (see above) in 1907 from a congregation they had established in 1866. The Reverend Prince Murrell organized the church and assisted the blacks, who previously attended segregated services at the all-white First Baptist Church, in forming their own church. In 1964, Reverend T.Y. Rogers, a former assistant pastor at Martin Luther King’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery and a leader of the Civil Rights movement in Tuscaloosa, led the church. Dr. King preached in this church during Reverend Rogers’ installation. They held many Civil Rights meetings in this church, and they planned marches and protests within its walls. They added it to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Today, its congregation actively serves the community.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama is a city with a rich history, made all the better by its many old churches. Stay tuned for future blog posts about other historic churches and buildings in Tuscaloosa.