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[graphic] Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims

[rotating photos] Exterior and interior of Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims
Photographs from National Historic Landmarks collection

[photo] Portrait representing Beecher and Pinky, one of the most famous slave girls whom he auctioned at the church, c.1860
Photograph from National Historic Landmarks collection
Between 1849 and the outbreak of the Civil War, this plain brick church was one of the nation's foremost centers of antislavery sentiment. Its minister at the time was Henry Ward Beecher, who had gained wide notice through his writings and skill at preaching of his strong abolitionist views. Beecher, born in 1813, was brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and son of Lyman Beecher, a well-known clergyman of liberal views. William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner and John Greenleaf Whittier were among other abolitionists who preached from its pulpit.

Beecher preached his first sermon at Plymouth Church in October of 1847, Brooklyn's Second Congregational Church. That church building was destroyed by fire in 1849 and a second church was built and designed specifically to accommodate the crowds that came to hear Beecher and his colleagues. The weekly congregation averaged about 2,500 people, and Beecher's sermons were printed in pamphlet form and widely circulated. Beecher advocated resistance to the extension of slavery, counseled disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Law, declaring that the requirements of humanity were above those of the Constitution, and encouraged his own congregation to become active in the Underground Railroad. He also auctioned several slaves from the pulpit of Plymouth Church, both to secure their freedom and illustrate the grimmest aspect of slavery. Today, Plymouth Church's simple design continues to reflect the Puritan ethic of plain living and high thinking, and the walls that once rang to the sound of abolition oratory remain largely unchanged.

Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims is located at 75 Hicks St., in Brooklyn, New York. Recently restored, it is still in use by the congregation. Midday tours of the sanctuary are offered after Sunday services. Call 718-624-4743 or visit the chuch's website for further information.

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