Archaeologists Uncover Possible Remnants of America’s Oldest Black Church

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By Amanda Casanova

Archaeologists may have found remnants in Williamsburg, Va. of what could be one of America’s oldest Black churches.

Experts uncovered what they believe is the foundation of the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation announced this week.

“The early history of our congregation, beginning with enslaved and free Blacks gathering outdoors in secret in 1776, has always been a part of who we are as a community,” said the Rev. Reginald F. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a statement.

“To see it unearthed—to see the actual bricks of that original foundation and the outline of the place our ancestors worshipped—brings that history to life and makes that piece of our identity tangible.”

First Baptist Church is set to celebrate its 245th anniversary this weekend.

Excavation of the location started about a year ago. Most recently, archaeologists found a 16×20-foot brick foundation on top of a layer of soil that dates back to the early 1800s. Next to the foundation was brick paving, where experts also found a coin from 1817.

According to tax records, the church’s congregation met at the site by 1818 and called the building the Baptist Meeting House.

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