Black Churches in America
Courtesy of Spelman College Archives, Atlanta, Georgia
The black Baptist church grew rapidly in the years following the Civil War, as black Baptists gained the freedom to worship outside of the control of white-controlled churches. From Reconstruction throughout the twentieth century, women played a major role in establishing and invigorating the black Baptist community. Baptist women have consistently formed the largest group of black Christians in America, and within the Baptist church itself women continue to comprise more than 60 percent of black membership. Although long faced with gender discrimination that barred them from leadership positions, women formed the heart of the church by visiting the homes of sick parishioners, participating in Bible readings, donating clothes and food to the needy, counseling prisoners, establishing nurseries and orphanages, supporting education and vocational training programs, crusading temperance, and supporting a number of other causes. Over the course of the twentieth century, the growing number of Baptist women missionaries increased the influence of black women both within the Unites States and abroad. This image shows the 1893 graduating class of the Missionary Training Department of Spelman Seminary. The class included such notable women as Emma De Lamotta (front row, center), who was born a slave in 1836 and went on to lead the department until her death in 1903.