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[Photo] The First African Baptist Church is the third oldest black congregation in the United States
Photograph by Eric Thomason, courtesy of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation

The First African Baptist Church was founded c.1790 to serve the religious needs of African Americans in the Lexington area. The First African Baptist Church is the third oldest black Baptist church congregation in the United States and the oldest in Kentucky. The first pastor of the church was Peter Durrett, known affectionately by his congregation as Old Captain. Old Captain immigrated to Kentucky with his master around 1785 and soon began leading the early church where he preached the Gospel. The site where the present First African Baptist Church stands was originally the site of the Old Methodist Meeting House.

[Photo] First African Baptist Church, looking southwest.
Courtesy of Kentucky Heritage Council, photo by Richard S. deCamp

The property was sold to the First African Baptist Church in 1833 under the leadership of the Reverend London Ferrill. Ferrill was a freed slave who came to Kentucky with his wife in 1812 and was allowed to stay here by an act of the Kentucky legislature. By 1850, Ferrill had increased the congregation from 280 to 1,820 people, making it the largest, black or white, in Kentucky. When the pastor passed away in 1854, his funeral procession was reputed to have been the second largest ever held in Lexington, second only to Henry Clay's. The present Italianate style church was constructed in 1856. The large, arched windows are a testament to this style of architecture. In the years following its construction a large stone portico was added and a two-story parish house was constructed adjacent to the church. The congregation of the First African Baptist Church has since moved to another location and the building is no longer used for church services. The church is not only significant for its religious history, but also for the prominent role it played in the lives of Lexington's early African Americans.

The First African Baptist Church is located at the corner of Short and Deweese sts.

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