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Archeologists Unearth Remains Of Original Structure Of One Of America’s Oldest Black Churches

WILLIAMSBURG-Archeologists from Colonial Williamsburg recently discovered remains of a building at the original site of Historic First Baptist Church, one of the nation’s oldest Black churches.

The discovery comes a year after excavation first began at the site, which is located at the corner of Nassau and Francis Streets in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. The structure dates back to the early 1800s. The announcement coincides with the 245th Anniversary of First Baptist Church, which is currently located on Scotland Street.

“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. Dr. Reginald F. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a release. “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. After 245 years, this is a reason to truly celebrate.”

The project garnered national attention when it first started. Archaeologists first began digging on the grounds in September 2020 in the hopes of finding any remains of the original First Baptist Church. Based on archeological evidence, those involved in the project believe the recent discovery to be the Baptist Meeting House, the congregation’s first permanent structure.

“We always hoped this is what we’d find,” said Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of archaeology. “Now we can move forward to better understand the footprint of the building. Is it the only structure on the site? What else was around it? What did it look like? How was it being used? This is really only the beginning.”

In addition to the original structure, archaeologists also discovered at least 25 confirmed human burials at the site. A community meeting is scheduled for Saturday, October 30 for descendants to discuss next steps and make decisions regarding the investigation of the burial sites.

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