Black History in Minnesota: Churches

February is Black History Month. Over the next several weeks, we would like to provide you with bits of information about the events and lives of African Americans in Minnesota with an emphasis on African Americans in the Twin Cities. We will not be able to cover every event or highlight every person as it is impossible to do justice to the tremendous impact of one people on a community. We hope to provide you with enough to whet your appetite to learn more about the history and the cultures that have helped create the rich, vibrant community that we are all a part of.

From 1790 to 1880, as the Minneapolis population increased and the neighborhoods changed, black churches relocated to meet the spiritual needs of their congregations. Initially established in Ward 4, St. James A.M.E. Church moved several times and by 1874 was located at 5th Avenue Southeast and 2ns Street. An African Baptist church existed at various addresses on Harrison Street, and a Free Will Baptist church stood on 1st Avenue South (Marquette) at the corner of 7th Street.

In 1863, Robert Hickman arrived in St. Paul with a group of escaped slaves from Missouri who came up the Mississippi River on a raft. He was leader of the group that founded the Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1866. He was ordained in 1877 and served as its minister until his death in 1900.

Churches were very important to the community, not only as places of worship, but also as social centers. Most social events, entertainment programs and meetings of self-help organizations were held in churches.

Source: Taylor, David Vassar. African Americans in Minnesota: The People of Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002. Print

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