233 Vine Street, SW

Old Town


First Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1866 by 21 former slaves in the home of Ms. Jane Young under the leadership of the Rev. Alfred Peters following the Civil War and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. In 1873, under the leadership of Rev. Crawford Peters, the Church then known as First Baptist Colored purchased a building that formerly belonged to a white Methodist congregation on Market and Canal Street NE. In 1895, in response to rapid growth, the church began preparations to build a larger facility under the leadership of Rev. Simon Robinson. In 1910, the church purchased a lot from Rev. E.A Bacon for $1,460.

The current structure was erected in 1919. The church was designed by W.A. Rayfield. Rayfield was the second licensed African American Architect in American history. A documentary entitled “Finding the Cornerstone” recently aired on PBS which explored the life and architecture legacy of Wallace Rayfield. First Missionary Baptist Decatur was included in the film. First Missionary Baptist Decatur prominently features many of the Neoclassical Romanesque architectural elements that would go on to become Rayfield’s signature style. Among those elements are the thick brick walls, rounded arches, large tower, magnificently vaulted ceilings and beautiful stained-glass windows purchased with pennies, nickels and dimes. Many of the architectural features reflected in First Missionary Baptist Decatur’s design are found in many other Rayfield designs notably Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

First Missionary Baptist Decatur served its community as a beacon light of hope during some of our nation and community’s most dark and difficult days. First Missionary Baptist Decatur served as a religious, cultural, and political nerve center for people who were oppressed by their country but strengthened by their community and loved by their Creator. The contributions of First Missionary Baptist Decatur were vital to the struggle for African American Civil Rights. Those contributions include but are not limited to serving a crucial role in the jury selection during the landmark Scottsboro Boys Civil Rights case. The Church has undergone two major renovations since its initial construction in 1919. In the 1980’s, Church trustees secured a loan of $100,000 to finance the addition of an education wing, multiple classrooms, a nursery, a fellowship area, and kitchen. In 1990, the Alabama Historical Commission added First Missionary Baptist Decatur to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage Sites. The Church was also featured in the Hidden Spaces photography exhibit recently hosted at The Alabama Center for the Arts and sponsored by the Muscle Shoals Heritage area.

First Missionary will be offering a live presentation of the church’s history, “Our First Baptist: Through the Years”. Presentations times are: 3:15 pm, 4:15 pm and 5:15 pm. First Missionary Baptist Church in Old Town is a must-see from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm on this year’s Christmas Tour.