Known as the spiritual center for the Civil Rights Movement, African-American churches in Atlanta were very influential in the prosperity of the nonviolent protest initiative. Home to both Martin Luther King's pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist as well as the headquarters of the nationally-acclaimed Southern Christian Leadership Conference, black churches in Atlanta have provided solace and strength during adversity and times of struggle.
Big Bethel AME
Big Bethel was founded in 1847, making it the oldest predominantly African American church in Metro Atlanta. In 1879 the Gate City Colored School, the first public school for African Americans in Atlanta was founded Big Bethel's basement. Once known as "Sweet Auburn's City Hall," for its importance in the black community, the church still stands as a reminder of milestones in our city's history.
Cascade United Methodist Church
An Atlanta institution for over 80 years, Cascade United Methodist was the first predominantly Black United Methodist church in the city. Stricken by fire, explosions and water damage, yet blessed with an ever-growing congregation, the church has seen numerous homes. In 1986, the SCLC president Reverend Joseph E. Lowery ministered here until his retirement.
Since its founding in 1886, Ebenzer Baptist Church has been home to instrumental figures in creating the Atlanta of today. During the 1960s Martin Luther King Sr. and Martin Luther King, Jr. served as co-pastors, working hard in the surrounding community to provide spiritual guidance and serve as activists on behalf of African Americans.
Founded in 1862, Friendship Baptist is Atlanta's oldest African American Baptist church. Once nothing more than a boxcar for gathering, Friendship played an integral part in building the education system that is revered to this day. The church was home to the first classroom of Atlanta University, as well as Morehouse College and Spelman College. The institutions deep roots and rich history have more than earned its reputation of the "Mother Church" among Atlanta Baptists.
New Birth Missionary Baptist
Founded in 1984, this progressive church now has over 25,000 members and 40 ministries. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King, now serves as an elder here, after having been elected President of the SCLC. The Cathedral, which accommodates large masses, was the site of Coretta Scott King's funeral.
Wheat Street Baptist
Wheat Street was found in 1869, and prides itself on having one of the oldest African American church credit unions. After a tragic fire in 1917 the church had to be rebuilt. The reconstruction during the early 1920s created the church that still stands on Auburn Avenue.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Established in 1955 in support of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the first SCLC president with Ralph David Abernathy serving as Program Director. In what would become the largest consortium of churches in the nation, the SCLC was the spiritual center of the Civil Rights Movement, encouraging nonviolent mass protests. Today it functions as a nation-wide organization dedicated to global human rights.
Tour the MLK National Historic Site by GPS and enjoy history at your own pace.
Vicki L. Crawford, director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, discusses the annual observances of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and Black History Month