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National Baptist has been the name of black Baptist churches since 1886, or earlier. Although they weren't the first black Christian churches created after emancipation, they have proven to be long-lasting.

The first black Baptist church association in the United States was probably the Providence Baptist Association of Ohio, which was formed in 1836, but the first attempt at establishing a national black Baptist association was in 1880, in Montgomery, Alabama.

In the South, prior to emancipation, there were black preachers who met in secret with groups of slaves, but there was nothing in the way of an organizational structure. Most black slaves attended white churches, where they were relegated to the balcony, known as the gallery. The end of slavery brought immediate consequences for church life among the freed slaves. Despite the failure of Reconstruction to secure true civil rights, and despite growing racism following the Civil War, blacks were able to take control of their religious lives.

Although some chose to create black churches affiliated with predominantly white denominations, particularly the Northern Baptist Convention, emancipation opened the door to the creation of new denominations, primarily in the South. The first were the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church and the Colored Cumberland Presbyterian Church, both of which were separate from the white Episcopal and Presbyterian denominations. Baptist organization was more fragmented, but longer lasting.

State conventions of black Baptists formed slowly, but several black Baptist churches were created. These black churches quickly became the center of black culture in the South. The failure of Reconstruction and the eventual withdrawal of Union troops marked the beginning of violent repression associated with the Ku Klux Klan and the enactment of Jim Crow laws. These conditions stripped the freed slaves of control over every institution except for the church. Conditions were better in the North, but racial prejudice was just as widespread, and blacks were largely shut out of political, literary, and business life. The result, in the North as well as the South, was dynamic churches.

By 1876, all of the Southern states except Florida had a state missionary convention. The first attempt at national organization was in 1880, with the Foreign Mission Baptist Convention in Montgomer, Alabama. In 1886, the American National Baptist Convention was organized in Saint Louis. In 1893, the Baptist National Educational Convention was established in Washington, DC. These three organizations merged to form the National Baptist Convention of America in 1895. After a split in 1907 over the control of publishing, the National Baptist Convention of the USA was formed. Today, these two denominations account for the largest cluster of black Christians in the United States.

Of these, the National Baptist Convention USA is the largest. There has been some fragmentation, however. In the 1960s, there was a split over support for Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. These led to the formation of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America.

The National Baptist Convention of America is strongest in Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana, but it also has large memberships in California and Florida.

The National Baptist Convention USA held itself apart from political or social involvement during the Civil Rights period, in which many black pastors and church members worked for racial justice. However, in recent years it has been active in social justice issues and voter registration drives. The autonomous nature of the denomination allows local congregations to interpret Scripture and define theology on issues not specified in its Articles of Faith.

The Progressive National Baptist Convention was formed in 1961 over the Civil Rights issue, after Martin Luther King Jr. was purged from the National Baptist Convention USA. The PNVC has followed a path of social activism, and generally takes a more liberal stance than most Baptist bodies.

The National Missionary Baptist Convention was founded in 1988 after breaking with the National Baptist Convention of America over publishing issues. Its greatest strength is in California and Texas, although there are fourteen state conventions within the denomination.

The National Primitive Baptist Convention of the USA is also a black denomination, created in Alabama in 1907, but it shares its origins with the Primitive Baptists rather than the National Baptists, and will be listed in that area of the directory.

This category, and any subcategories, is focused on the predominantly black National Baptist religious bodies. Topics related to the National Baptists or to any of the denominations that evolved from them are appropriate here.


National Baptist Convention USA



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