First Baptist Church, the oldest Black Baptist church in Maryland, was founded amidst turmoil in 1836, five years after Nat Turner's Rebellion in Virginia. Alarmed at the Rebellion, Maryland and other slave states passed laws restricting the movement of free Blacks across state lines, prohibiting the employment of free Black immigrants, and forbidding the teaching of reading and writing to slaves.
In this heavily charged atmosphere, Moses Clayton, an ex-slave and lay minister from Norfolk, Virginia was called to Baltimore by William Crane, a well-known merchant and active Baptist, also from Norfolk. Clayton arrived in Baltimore in 1834, began Sunday School classes in his home, and was ordained the following year. On February 2, 1836, the "First Colored People's Baptist Church of Baltimore" was founded and housed in a school building near Belair Market, offered rent-free by a sympathetic banker.
As minister, Clayton energetically fought for the education of Black children. He joined other activists in petitioning the City to stop taxing Blacks for the support of public schools which excluded them, and urged a separate system to be established. The petitions were rejected, but the Baptist Sunday School, through its religious and secular classes, continued to play a vital part in the struggle to provide education to the Black community.