Tabernacle Baptist Church was founded in 1885, and in March of that year, the congregation purchased this site. Built in 1922 under the leadership of Dr. David Vivian Jemison, the current church features bricks from the original church building on the south and west elevations. Designed by African-American architect and Tabernacle member David T. West, this building is the most formidable Classic Revival design of any African-American institution in Selma from the Jim Crow era. With a multi-colored stained glass clerestory shining light down on the huge open interior, Tabernacle was the most architecturally compelling space Selma's African-Americans could experience for most of the twentieth century. The decision by West and the congregation to situate the church on the corner of Minter Avenue and Broad Street, with a monumental classical-style façade facing Broad, was a concession to the bitter Jim crow ethos of the time. as it also had a "separate but equal" entrance on Minter Avenue the congregation could actually use. Tabernacle continues to be a leader for Christian influence and social justice.
Continued on other side
Continued from other side
Upon the death of Dallas County Voter's League stalwart Sam Boynton in May 1963, Amelia Boynton and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee activists Bernard and Colia Lafayette wanted to use memorial service as a vehicle for voting rights activism. Many African-American churches did not want the service in their buildings out of a justified fear of reprisals by the white community. Rev. Louis Lloyd Robinson, Tabernacle's pastor from 1954-1968, volunteered Tabernacle for the memorial service, which upset Tabernacle's deacons. He refused to change his mind, and threatened he would hold the service on the sidewalk if they did not allow him to use the church. Thus, Selma's first voting rights mass meeting was held at Tabernacle on May 14, 1963. After this initial meeting, mass meetings in churches became a foundation strategy for the Civil Rights Movement in Selma. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke at Tabernacle in October 1963, updating Selma on the courageous struggle in Birmingham. On February 16, 1968, Dr. King returned to Tabernacle to address a mass meeting in support of his Poor People's Campaign and its planned march on Washington, D.C.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places