Faith and Perseverance
In 1827, New York officially ended slavery. But Black New Yorkers still had to deal with racism and other challenges that made their lives hard. They were excluded from jobs, education, and other private and public places to which white people belonged. Churches became an important way for Black people to build community and support each other. In their churches, Black people could be leaders. They could also build their own traditions. They could help each other through difficult times. In 1830, Buffalo, New York had about 330 Black people living in it. By 1850, there were 678 people. In this time, Black residents started two churches, Michigan Street Baptist and Vine Street African Methodist Episcopal. They became important centers of community life and were important places in the Underground Railroad. The Michigan Street Baptist Church hid freedom seekers in Buffalo until they could get them to safety in Canada. A third Black church was started in Buffalo in 1850. It was called the East Presbyterian Church. They built a new church building, but this cost a lot of money. They had a hard time paying their bills. But they were committed to helping Buffalo’s Black community. They invited abolitionist speakers like Frederick Douglass. They held conferences, social events, worship services, and other community activities. To stay open, they partnered with another church.
They became St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in 1866. The church still exists in Buffalo. The founders stayed strong in their goal to start their own church and to chart their own course for their community.
Did You Know?
- Black churches in northern
communities started as religious societies in the early 1800s. Buffalo had a Methodist society and a Baptist society for the Black community.
- Buffalo has had Black residents since the beginning of its European settlement.
- Many Black residents in the 18th and early 19th century made Buffalo their home due to its close location to the security of Canada. The Fugitive Slave Acts made life in the United States very dangerous for Black residents.
Michigan Street Baptist Church
Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor https://www.michiganstreetbuffalo.org/about-us
Michigan Street Baptist Church and the Underground Railroad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvEZAdpFP8Y
History of Michigan Street Baptist Church https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcTg5wSEmeo
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
Phyllis Wheatley Club and Mary Talbert Reference https://buffalostreets.com/2020/09/02/talbert-part-2/
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center https://www.niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.org/