After the Civil War, a number of Geechee people who had been enslaved remained on St. Simons Island.
They attended the First African Baptist Church, founded in 1859. Construction of the church was completed in 1869 by former enslaved people from St. Simons Island plantations. Regular services are still held today at the original site on Frederica Road, which has been diligently cared for and renovated through the years.
In October 2000, at the First African Baptist Church, a group of island residents and property owners formed the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition to protect and preserve the history and heritage of African-Americans on St. Simons Island.
Today, the coalition conducts tours of historic sites. It also produces the annual Georgia Sea Islands Festival, celebrating traditional Geechee culture. Recently the coalition, together with Friends of Harrington School organized a successful fund-raising effort. The goal was to restore the historic Harrington School House. The school was built in the 1920s to serve the Island’s Geechee children.
The OFFICIAL Facebook page for First African Baptist Church St. Simons Island states the following:
As you drive down Frederica Road, you will pass the First African Baptist Church on the right. This beautiful two story, frame, front gable building with shingle siding, round arch windows, and an off center, pyramidal roof steeple was built in 1869 by former slaves of the St. Simons plantations. The congregation itself organized ten years earlier. Members of this African American church traveled from all around the island to attend worship services every Sunday. This could be quite a distance for members who resided on the south end of the island.
In the late 1800s, First African began mission churches around St. Simons to better serve the needs of all its members. They don’t give tours but First African Baptist Church still holds services every Sunday at 11am. Once a year during the service, someone reads the entire history of the Church. Including important events as additions to the building or the acquisition of electricity (1950s), the history this year was at least five pages long. Although older than many historic sites and certainly in better condition than most, First African Baptist Church is often overlooked by tourism books and brochures; however, it is a lovely part of St. Simons Island culture and history.
The First African Baptist Church invites all to join in fellowship with them for the following offerings:
- Sunday School: 9:30 a.m.
- Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.
- Tuesday Bible Studies: 12 noon & 7 p.m.
- Wednesday: 10 a.m. at the Senior Care facility (Brunswick,Georgia)
- Thursday Morning Prayer: 10 a.m.
Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Simons,_Georgia, https://www.facebook.com/FAMBCSSI1859/