St. Paul A.M.E. Church (1869)
The Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1869, in the home of Samuel and Violet Williams, parents of Ada Braddock Bracy. Located in LaVilla, the first structure was made of grass, palmetto leaves and bushes and was called the “Bush Arbor”. In 1883, Bush Arbor was replaced by the first masonry church owned by the A.M.E. in the State of Florida. Built during the leadership of Rev. P. B. Braddock, early members of this congregation are closely associated with the establishment of Edward Waters College, the oldest HBCU in the State of Florida. One block from the childhood home of James Weldon Johnson, Johnson mentions the presence of Gullah ring shouting at St. Paul A.M.E. in his autobiography, Along This Way.
In 1956, St. Paul A.M.E. relocated to a larger edifice at 2225 North Myrtle Avenue in Durkeeville. This building was designed and built by James Edward Hutchins, one of Jacksonville early Black architects. Hutchins established his own construction company during the 1930s, and was responsible for several Black churches and residences throughout the city. This site played a significant role during the 1960s Civil Rights era. Today it is occupied by the Harvest Ministries Worship & Community Center.
Left: Ruby Hurley, NAACP Southeast Regional Director, speaking at NAACP mass meeting at St. Paul’s AME Church in 1960. Thanks to the University of North Florida Special Collections and University Archives for the historic images.
*Right: NAACP meeting at the Second Missionary Baptist Church. The image features Robert Saunders, NAACP Field Secretary to the State of Florida with Rutledge Pearson seated to Saunder’s left. Thanks to the University of North Florida Special Collections and University Archives for the historic images.**
Shiloh Church (1875)
Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church was founded as a mission of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in 1875. It was established for members living in LaVilla to be able to worship in their own neighborhood. Rev. James Johnson, the father of famed brothers James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson, served as the pastor of this congregation from the 1880s to 1901. Under the leadership of A.B. Coleman, Sr., Shiloh located to its current site in 1953. In 2002, a 5,000 seat state-of-the-art sanctuary was constructed on the site.
First Baptist Church of Oakland (1880)
Buildings designed by John Henry Rosemond.
The First Baptist Church of Oakland was established as the Friendship Baptist Church in 1880. Originally housed in a building that was used as a dance hall during the week, the church’s name was changed to the First Baptist Church of Oakland in 1916. The current sanctuary was completed in 1944 and designed by Black architect John Henry Rosemond. Born in 1879 in South Carolina, Rosemond arrived in Jacksonville around 1915. Rosemond was one of two African America builders before World War II, to refer to himself as an architect.
Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church (1884)
The Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church was established in 1884. This building at 1114 King Road was designed by John Henry Rosemond and completed in 1923. Rosemond was one of two Black builders before World War II, to refer to himself as an architect. The church ceased operation in 2018. Today, the property is owned by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Jacksonville, Inc.
A soup kitchen at Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church in 1933.
St. Stephen A.M.E. Church (1892)
St. Stephen AME Church was established in 1892, when a small group began holding weekly prayer meetings in a home at Davis and Harrison (now 4th) Streets. In 1905, this building was constructed at the intersection of Davis and 5th Streets. It was later demolished and replaced with the current St. Stephen AME Church building that was dedicated on August 13, 1961.
NAACP Mass Meeting held at St. Stephens AME Church. Thanks to the University of North Florida Special Collections and University Archives for the historic images.
Greater New Hope A.M.E. Church (1892)
In 1891, pastor James William Randolph moved his family, wife Elizabeth and sons James, Jr. and Asa Philip Randolph, to Jacksonville as a part of a larger black migration to southern cities in the decades following Emancipation. In 1892, Randolph began raising money for a new permanent AME church by organizing Saturday night fish and chicken fries. The congregation he established, first named New Hope AME Chapel and eventually renamed Greater New Hope AME Chapel, continues to worship at its original site at 2708 North Davis Street. His son, A. Phillip Randolph, would go on to become an internationally known labor unionist and Civil Rights leader. During the 1920s, he organized the first predominantly black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Mount Ararat Missionary Baptist Church (1919)
Organized in 1919, Mount Ararat Missionary Baptist Church is located at 2502 Myrtle Avenue North. Under the leadership of Rev. Dallas J. Graham, this structure was rebuilt in 1958. Here, on March 19, 1961, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “This is a Great Time to Be Alive” sermon at an event sponsored by the Duval County Citizens Benefit Corporation and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. The message centered around the promotion of nonviolent resistance. At the time, Jacksonville had become a racial powder keg as the Black community had began to stand up to local segregationist.
Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at email@example.com