Fifth Street Baptist Church Records

Accession: 1981-101
Extent: 3.25 linear feet
Restrictions: None.
Copyright: Copyright has not been transferred to the University of Louisville.

History of the Fifth Street Baptist Church, 1857-1979

An African American church founded in 1829, Fifth Street Baptist Church was the second such church in the state, following behind the Separate Baptists organized in Lexington.

Originally known as the African or First Colored Baptist Church, it was on Market St. between Seventh and Eighth Streets. The church was founded in 1829 as a house of worship for the slaves of white parishioners of the First Baptist Church. The Reverend Henry Kiger was the first pastor and was assisted by the white members. A slave owner dedicated the ground at Fifth and York Streets in approximately 1835 for a place of worship for his slaves. A meeting house was erected beyond the city limits in a place described as swampy and difficult to reach. Under the leadership of pastor Henry Adams, who came to preach in 1839, black members were taken out of the white Baptist church three years later. At the time of separation from First Baptist, the church had a charter membership of 475 members. The church also holds the distinction of being the first piece of real estate owned by blacks in the city. In 1848 it established itself on Fifth St. south of Walnut (now Muhammad Ali Blvd.).

Though not free from the influence of the white standing committee, the church largely controlled its own affairs. In 1866 it began a movement for a hospital for freed slaves. In the 1870s the church revolutionized the concept of social welfare by assigning a deacon to supervise the visitation in each of the city's wards. It provided boxes of clothing for poor members and gave financial support to destitute members during the 1873 depression. By June 1876 the church was able to give three dollars a week to the poor, comparable to a laborer's weekly wage. The church gave annual financial support to and held find-raising drives for the Colored Orphans' Home and St. James home for the elderly. In addition, it awarded a college scholarship. The church also sponsored missionary work in Africa. It established several branch missions, some of which became churches. The church is located at 1901 W. Jefferson St., its fourth location.

From: "Fifth Street Baptist Church, "The Encyclopedia of Louisville (2001), p.287-288.

Brief Description of the Collection

This collection, which contains significant amounts of material from the 19th century, consists of records of meetings, including church business and deacons' meetings, as well as records relating to membership (membership lists, individuals joining the church and requesting letters to join other congregations). This includes church minutes from 1842 to 1948 and membership lists and directories from the 19th and 20th centuries. There are also records relating to the choir dating to the 1870s as well as 20th century records of the church's music program. The collection also includes a limited amount of material relating to finances and the physical operation of the church building.

Box List

Box 1

  • Church Membership Record
  • Membership List - Vol. 1
  • Back Page of Minutes (1870-77)
  • Correspondence to Church (1968, 1954-55)
  • DFH Company Heating and Air Conditioning -- Air Proposal (1976)
  • Benevolent Records (1959-65)
  • Drafts of Trustee Minutes (1974-79)
  • Letter of Recommendation Book
  • The Deacon Board Minute Book (March 3, 1964-Feb. 6, 1973)
  • Church Membership and Decision Records
  • Day Book (undated)
  • The Deacon Board Minute Book (May 5, 1952-Feb. 4, 1964)
  • Minutes of Church Business Meetings (Nov. 11, 1857-?)
  • Current, Benevolent, and Building Funds (1960-66)
  • Minutes of Church Business Meetings (April 14, 1948-Jan. 14, 1972)
  • "Request for Church Letter" Booklet
  • Minutes of Church Business Meetings (Nov. 14, 1878-April 9, 1878)
  • Membership Roll Book (1899)
  • Church Program for 1971 (2 copies)
  • Building Improvement
  • Correspondence and Notes
  • Financial Information
  • Membership List (1900-01)
  • Membership Directory by Gender (circa 1920s-1940s)
  • Membership and Offering List (1870-?)
  • Unidentified Page from Book

Box 2

  • Membership List (1920s-1950s)
  • Church Minutes - Vol. 1 (April 1, 1842 - Dec. 12, 1866)
  • Church Minutes - Vol. 2 (Jan. 3, 1870 - Feb. 6,1877)
  • Church Minutes - Vol. 3 (March 14, 1877 - March 7, 1888)
  • Church Minutes - Vol. 4 (April 11, 1888 - Nov. 8, 1905)
  • Deacon Meeting Minutes (1933 - Fragmented)

Box 3

  • Choir Minutes and Enrollment (Jan. 1, 1870 - June 22, 1877)
  • Church Minutes (Jan. 10, 1906 - March 21, 1948)
  • Assistant Organist/Chorister Contract - Miss Jean Hampton (Jan. 29, 1941)
  • Organist/Chorister Contract - Mrs. Iola Jordan Acton (Jan. 20, 1941)
  • Letter from Robert M. Purdy - Former Organist (Jan. 20, 1941)

Box 4

  • Board of Trustees Minute Book (1954-1969)