Every Sunday morning at 9:00, Deacon Keane would ring that bell. That meant it’s time for y’all to leave home and come to Sunday school.
This is the first colored church that was established in the City of Selma. The church is recognized as the mother church of all Baptists here. Beginning in 1845, the black and white church was one church. When the Jim Crow laws came about and the blacks and the whites could not worship together anymore, so they bought us out for $2,000.
At the age of 12, I joined the church. We loved coming down because it served as the community place for our activities.
This church also is where Selma University was founded. They would have concerts here every year. And even today, many of the elderly black people often say, “Oh, we sure wish we could have some of that music we used to go to hear at First Baptist Church.” This church was and still is the largest seating area or auditorium in the city this is where all of the graduations, concerts were held for all black schools. Those graduations were magnificent because those people were marching with their robes and we looked, we wanted to be like that one day!
The movement consumed our church 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Voters League and the first NAACP chapter was founded here in the basement
After the children were bombed in Birmingham, the children of RB Hudson, the children of Luther Academy, students at Selma University, and Tipton, they all got up and walked out and they all marched right here to this church. No other church – because they were afraid of what happened in Birmingham – would leave their doors open. That was the opening of the Voting Rights Movement
The Voters League would show the people how to read so they could go down to the courthouse and pass that test to get the right to vote. Everything moved here to First Baptist.
Shuttlesworth and the movement in Montgomery. And Abernathy, the movement in Birmingham. Both of those young men practiced preaching in this pulpit when they were students at Selma University. They were mentored by the NAACP and the Voters League people.
In 1978, this church was struck by the tornado. All you could see was the roof and the rafters of the church. At this point, we’re at the junction of the fourth part phase of our restoration.
We want the children to know that through the church and the learnings and the teaching, we realized that we’re all God’s children and we’re human. And as a result, the leaders were fearless and fought for them for the right to enjoy this life in these United States and that this place is one of the places that provided for that to happen.