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 have 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 the city of Tuscaloosa was incorporated and the state of Alabama was admitted to the Union. Known as Bethel Church, First Presbyterian Church (see below) was started by 16 Presbyterians who left Pendleton, South Carolina, and settled on the banks of the Black Warrior River. After the Civil War, when many former slaves wished to have churches of their own, FPC’s minister, Dr. Charles Stillman, helped found a school for the training of African American ministers. Today it is known as Stillman College.
Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church
Located on the campus of Stillman College, this church is still active today and maintains a close relationship with the college. Founded as the Salem Presbyterian Church, Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church (see above) dates back to 1880, when Dr. Charles Stillman, minister of First Presbyterian Church helped the black members of his church to start their own. It is the oldest existing black Presbyterian church in Alabama.
St. John’s Catholic Church
Although the first meeting of Catholics held in Tuscaloosa was in 1819, the first service held in this quaint little church was in 1846. As the Catholic population grew with the influx of Irish immigrants, Tuscaloosa got its first Catholic priest in 1844. In 1845, St. John’s Catholic Church (see below) was erected; a tower and bell were later added. Today, St John the Baptist Church is a mission church of the parish of Holy Spirit.
First African Baptist Church
Located on Stillman Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, the First African Baptist Church (see above) was built in 1907 from a congregation established in 1866. The church was organized by the Reverend Prince Murrell who helped the blacks who had once attended segregated services at the all-white First Baptist Church form their own church. In 1964, the church was headed by 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. Dr. King preached in this church at the installation of Reverend Rogers. Many meetings for Civil Rights were held in this church, and marches and protests were planned within its walls. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Today, its congregation continues to serve 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.