the Black Community:
ceremony at the First African Baptist Church in Richmond.
(Harper's Weekly, June 27, 1874)
creation of autonomous black churches was a major achievement of the Reconstruction
era, and a central component of blacks' conception of freedom.
first institution fully controlled by African-Americans, the church played
a central role in the black community.
the Civil War, many rural slaves had held secret religious meetings
outside the supervision of their owners.
slaves, along with free blacks, had belonged to biracial congregations
controlled by whites, many of which required black members to sit
in the back of the church or the galleries during services.
With emancipation, blacks withdrew from these institutions to create
their own churches. They pooled their resources to purchase land
and erect church buildings.
place of worship, the church also housed schools, social events, and political
gatherings, and sponsored benevolent and fraternal societies. Black ministers
also came to play a major role in Reconstruction politics.