BlackFacts Details

First Congregational Church, Atlanta, Georgia (1867- )

The First Congregational Church of Atlanta, Georgia, the largest Congregational church in the South, began as a “gathered church” on May 26, 1867. After being baptized, local formerly enslaved African Americans joined members of the mostly white congregation that met at the Storrs School Chapel. The American Missionary Association (AMA) established the Storrs School in 1865, in Atlanta, which provided classes, worship, and social services for former slaves and whites impoverished by the Civil War. Inspired by the worship services offered at the Storrs School, the ex-slaves petitioned for a church of their own. Land was donated to the congregation on the corner of Houston and Courtland Street, and a new “little red church” was built. Over the next decade, the congregation became primarily African American, while white members formed their own church.

In 1894, First Congregational Church called its first African American pastor, Dr. Henry Hugh Proctor, a graduate of Fisk University and Yale Divinity School, and former Elder at First African Presbyterian Church. Under Dr. Proctor’s leadership the present church building was completed in 1908. The groundbreaking ceremony was marked by the attendance of Booker T. Washington as guest of honor and former President Theodore Roosevelt visited the church in March 1911. The church structure is listed as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places and is noted as a Georgia Historical site.

Over time First Congregational Church developed facilities and programs to meet the special needs of the surrounding neighborhood. They provided the first and for many years only gymnasium available to Atlanta blacks. Their home for young black single women was the only one of its kind in the city. The church’s employment bureau served blacks and whites. A water fountain outside the church available to all races, was the first public water fountain opened in the city. The trouble bureau was a clinic for medical ailments and a prison mission, one of the first in the nation,