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African American Churches in West Georgia collection

Identifier: LH-0125

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the records of African American churches in the West Georgia region including a bulletin celebrating the 106th anniversary of Gray's Chapel AME of Adairsville, a newspaper article about the 110th anniversary of Gray's Chapel, and a Saint James AME of Cassville tribute to church Sister Oteel Higginbotham.


  • 2004-2008

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all users.

Conditions Governing Use

Rights held by the University of West Georgia.

Biographical / Historical

During the 18th and 19th century, before enslaved African Americans were emancipated, Methodist and Baptist churches made an effort to convert the enslaved population to Christianity. By the late 18th century, the Methodist Church allowed enslaved African American men to obtain licenses to preach. The first black church in Georgia was founded in Savannah by 1790.

By the 19th century, the Second Great Awakening spread religious fervor across America impacting both white and black Americans. Enslaved African Americans began meeting in bush or hush arbors to hold private religious services. Many congregations sought the autonomy that an independent black church would provide them, but fear of slave uprising prevented independent southern black churches from forming before the Civil War. In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation liberated the enslaved population in the South. To ease the transition from enslavement to freedom, Northern black churches and white denominations sent missionaries to educate former slaves in southern regions. The missionary efforts encouraged former slaves to gain new skills through education in order to live independent lives. Education and church building coincided in the western region of Georgia, and almost immediately after emancipation African American churches began forming.

In Dallas, Georgia, the Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1866, only a year after the Civil War. The church first met in bush arbors, with traveling ministers preaching to those who gathered. The original church was erected on the Old Yorkville-Villa Rica Road, which is also where the first established church cemetery is located. Unfortunately, the church was burned down at an unknown date and the congregation then purchased land from Mr. Beryl and Mrs. Dinah Williams to establish a new church. The church was relocated to this site in 1920 until it was torn down for the construction of the new church, which was built in 1981.

In Villa Rica, Georgia, Flat Rock Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1873 by Reverend T. Simms and a group of descendants of former slaves. The congregation met in a bush arbor. The first building was erected in 1878 and was used until it was partially destroyed during a 1913 storm. The church was rebuilt that same year and remained in use until the current church building was completed in 1964 ( In July 1887, Reverend J.M. Hindsman and six church members formed Mt. Prospect Baptist Church and the church building was completed by 1890. In 1928, a second building was erected, which was the first African American-owned church building in Carroll County. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1945 and the new building, which the church currently uses, was finished that same year.

In Adairsville, Georgia, Gray’s Chapel A.M.E. Church was formed in 1898 after being purchased by the A.M.E. Church. The building was originally constructed in 1871 by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church with both white and black residents attending services. In 1890, the Presbyterian Congregation disbanded and the property was returned to the original owner, John W. Gray, until the A.M.E. Church purchased it. The original building burned in 1991 and was rebuilt in 1992.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)




This collection contains the records of African American churches in the West Georgia region.


This collection is arranged alphabetically by file title.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by Violette Denney, February 2020.

Processing Information

Records processed by Jennah MacPherson, 2020.

Guide to the African American Churches in West Georgia Collection
Finding aid prepared by Jennah MacPherson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of West Georgia Special Collections Repository

Special Collections, Ingram Library
University of West Georgia
1601 Maple Street
Carrollton GA 30118-2000 United States