In January 1885, Dr. Edward M. Brawley, President, Alabama Baptist Normal and Theological School (now Selma University) formed Tabernacle Baptist Church to be an integral part of the students' Christian formation and education. Significant associations existed between Tabernacle's congregation and leadership in the statewide and national African American Baptist Church, especially the National Baptist Convention, USA (NBC), which merged three organizations into one in 1895. Rev. W.H. Alpine and Rev. Brawley served as Presidents of the organizations that became the NBC and after the merger, Rev. D.V. Jemison and Rev. T.J. Jemison served as Presidents of the NBC. Tabernacle member Professor Richard Bryan Hudson served as General Secretary of the NBC from 1908-31. Dr. D.V. Jemison was commited to equality for Negroes and believed that pastors should be community leaders in this regard. During his time as NBC President that coincided with Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency, historians have compared the renown of Tabernacle to that of FDR's Little White House at Warm Springs, GA. Rev. Jemison exerted such power and influence over the NBC in an effort to fight for equal rights.
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Tabernacle Baptist Church played a central role in Selma's Negro community during Dr. David Vivian Jemison's tenure as pastor. He served the church for 44 years from 1902-1929 and again from 1936-1954. He rooted his ministry in Christian stewardship and social justice, and the church began outreach programs to meet the community's economic, cultural and educational needs. Tabernacle provided leadership in music education for Selma's Negro community. Dr. William H. Dinkins, a Tabernacle member and President of Selma University from 1932-50 and his wife Almedia Burwell were strong supporters of music education. Their daughter Pauline D. Anderson fervently supported her husband, Rev. L.L. Anderson, in his efforts for equality. Tabernacle's members continued fighting for Civil Rights and social justice. Rev. John D. Hunter and Marie Foster were two of "The Courageous Eight" who invited Dr. Martin Luther King to Selma in 1964. The letter they signed violated Judge James Hare's injunction against people meeting in public to discuss breaking the law. Tabernacle member Dr. Sullivan Jackson and his wife Richie Jean hosted Dr. Martin Luther King in their Lapsley Street home.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places