|In 1788 he purchased his freedom and formed a congregation which was chartered under the name of First Bryan Baptist Church. This congregation was significantly involved in the affairs of the Savannah black community. In 1793 Bryan obtained the lot where the First Bryan Baptist Church (constructed in 1873) now stands. A dispute over doctrine in 1832 caused a schism, resulting in two congregations. The congregations of the First Bryan Baptist Church and the First African Baptist Church, constructed in 1859, are direct descendants of Bryan's original congregation.
|The First African Baptist Church of Savannah Georgia evolved from the very first black Baptist church to be established in America. It owed its formation to the work of three men -- David George, George Liele, and Andrew Bryan -- who were brought together by the American Revolution.
Liele was the first black Baptist in Georgia. In 1773, he was licensed to preach to slaves on plantations along the Savannah River, in Georgia and South Carolina. After his Loyalist master's death in battle in 1778, Liele made his way to British-occupied Savannah. Over the next few years, he built a congregation of black Baptists, slave and free, including David George and Andrew Bryan.
David George was one of 8 slaves who were baptized and formed a congregation on a plantation in Silver Bluff, South Carolina. Under George's leadership, their number gradually increased to more than 30. In 1778, when their Patriot master abandoned the plantation under British advance, the whole Silver Bluff group fled to British lines, eventually joining with Liele's, who had preached to them on the plantation.
|In 1782, Liele baptized Andrew Bryan, born enslaved in 1737, and his wife Hannah. When hundreds of blacks left with the British later that year, Bryan, the only one of the three preachers to remain in Savannah, continued to preach to small groups outside of Savannah.
Although some planters (including Andrew Bryan's owner, Jonathan Bryan) advocated the evangelism of slaves by black preachers, most were fearful of uprisings by slaves who might hear the message of liberation in the Gospels.Despite the harassment, brutal whippings, and imprisonment inflicted upon Bryan and his members, he continued to preach and finally gained permission from the courts to hold services during daylight in a barn on his master's plantation.
In 1788 Bryan was ordained and his church was certified, predating the establishment of a white Baptist church in Savannah by five years; in 1794, Bryan erected a frame structure, naming it the Bryan Street African Baptist Church.
By 1800, his congregation had grown to about 700, leading to a reorganization that created the First Baptist Church of Savannah and eventually the Second and Third Baptist Churches.
50 of Bryan's adult members could read, having been taught the Bible, the Baptist Confession of Faith, and some religions works; and three could write.
The city's first black sabbath school was established at First African Baptist, and a school for Georgia's black children was operated by Henry Francis, who had been ordained by Bryan and was pastor of the first branch of the church.
|Historic Chronological Events
|The Oldest Continuous Black Baptist Church in America and The First Baptist Church in Savannah with over 200 years of Christian Service.
•1774 - George Leile, First Black Missionary, converted, baptized, and began preaching.
•1784 - Andrew Bryan, Hannah Bryan, and Kate Hogg baptized by George Leile.
•1784 - Andrew Bryan given permission to preach January 20, 1788 - First Bryan Baptist Church organized, Andrew Bryan ordained and installed as the First Pastor.
•1793 - Andrew Bryan obtained his freedom and purchased the site of this church for $150.
•1795 - First church building completed.
•1812 - Andrew Bryan's Death.
•1815 - Andrew Marshall became the second pastor.
•1826 - First Sunday School for Blacks, organized by Lowell Mason, Superintendent of the Independent Presbyterian Church.
•1832 - Church split over doctrinal matters with pastor and a portion of the membership moving to a building on Franklin Square.
•1833 - Church remained in continuous operation under the deacons led by Deacon Adam Johnson.
•1835 - Administration of Sunday School relinquished by the Independent Presbyterian Church and assumed by the Black Church.
•1836-1916 - Period of struggle, decline in membership and a series of six ministers but still in continuous operation.
•3/19/1853 - Death of Deacon Adam Johnson after 40 years of service.
•1861 - Ulysses Houston installed as pastor.
•1866 - First Bryan Baptist Church Chartered by the State of Georgia.
•1873 - Congregation decided to build a new and modern church - Plan drafted by John B. Hogg(or Howard), a Civil Engineer. Building razed - Cornerstone laid October 13, 1873.
•1/20/1888 - Present edifice completed at a cost of $30,000.00 and occupied for the first time.
•1888 - Covenant, Constitution and By-Laws written, printed and distributed to the membership.
•1888 - Pipe Organ built by H. Knauff and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1856, installed at a cost of $1,250.00.
•1888 - Death of Ulysses L. Houston.
•1888-1915 - Growth of congregation, monumental program broadened, physical plant modernized.
•1916 - Monument to George Leile erected on this site by authorization of the National Baptist Convention, Inc.
•1938 - 1st Sesqui-Centennial Celebration held.
•1945 - Dedication of addition to the main edifice to provide a choir stand at the rear of the pulpit.
•1956 - Dedication of the Educational Annex ($25,000.00)
•1974 - Participation in planning for Bicentennial Celebration of the United States with the "Downtown Nine" historic churches.
•1975 - Completed a brief historical sketch up to 1975.
•1976 - Cultural Bicentennial Contribution Morehouse Male Glee Club, March 14;
-Bicentennial Recognition Banquet honoring 3 outstanding church historians, April contributed historical material to "Savannah's Time-Capsule", issued Memorial Plate, 1788-1976;
-Musical Contribution to "Night in Old Savannah", began permanent historical exhibit of church, evaluated church and furnishings($500,000.00);
-Applied for Historic Landmark Status; opened the church to the public on a restricted basis;
-Reissued and promoted sales of original history.
•1977 - Hosted the 107th Session of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, Inc.
•1/20/1979 - Unveiled plaque indicating Historic Landmark Status. This is placed on the exterior of the main sanctuary.
•2/11/1979 - Recording of First Live TV. Ministry telecast for Coastal Georgia on WJCL-ABC Channel 22. Televised from the walls of the sanctuary of the Mother Church of Black Baptists.
•4/15/1979 - The first live TV. Broadcast appearance Easter Sunday Morning having received one of the highest TV. ratings for religious broadcast programs in 1979 on WJCL-ABC Channel 22.
•5/20/1979 - Unveiled the first historical marker, granted to blacks in Georgia. This marker is situated on the land area in front of the church and may be read from either direction. Dr. Elizabeth Lyon, Chief of Georgia's Historical Preservation Section, was the main speaker.
•1/10- 1/20/1988 - Celebrated Bicentennial. Theme - "We've Come This Far By Faith".
|Phones & Locations
|Historic First Bryan Baptist Church - Phone: 912- 232-5526 - Address: 575 West Bryan Street Savannah Georgia 31401
First African Baptist Church - Address: 23 Montgomery Street, Savannah Georgia
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