Black History Month: First African American Baptist Church

The Silver Bluff Baptist Church in Beech Island, South Carolina has the distinction of being the first African American Baptist church in the United States. As with any firsts, discovering what makes it so involved following a lead. The lead was an NPR radio story that caught my attention. See, James Brown is from Beech Island so a reporter went there to follow up on the town’s plans to build a James Brown museum. What became the point of interest on this occasion was the church.

It’s been in operation since 1750, 1773, 1774 or 1775. I’ve come across all three dates, but what is clear is that it first existed on the land of a man named Galphin who owned the plantation. Minister #1 was Wait Palmer, a white guy from Connecticut. Minister #2, who helped minister #1 was George Liele, the first ordained black minister. When the Revolutionary War broke out minister #1 hightailed it out of there and minister #2 became minister #1 and ordained another minister before he left for Savanah to form another church which was a spin off congregation of the first. Therefore, if you do a web search on the “first African American Baptist church like I did, The Springfield Baptist Church, will also come up. There’s more history about these congregations on

You can visit the Silver Bluff Baptist church in Beech Island, although the building is not the same building. The current building was built in 1883 and has been altered through the years. The Beech Island Historical Society offers details of other points of interest as well. Beech Island is just a short hop to Aiken County in Georgia with other historic points of interest.

Listen to the NPR story.