A Brief History of 16th Street Baptist Church. Part 2
Noted Black leaders like W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the NAACP, found eager audiences at 16th Street.
The present church was completed in 1911. Of modified Romanesque and Byzantine design, it features twin towers with pointed domes, a cupola over the sanctuary accessible by a wide stairway, and large basement auditorium with several rooms along the east and west sides.
Because of segregation, the church, and other black churches in Birmingham, served many purposes. It functioned as a meeting place, social center and lecture hall for a variety of activities important to the lives of the city’s black citizens. W.E.B. DuBois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Paul Robeson, and Ralph Bunche were among many noted black Americans who spoke at the church during its early years. African-Americans from across the city and neighboring towns came to Sixteenth Street, then called “everybody’s church,” to take part in the special programs it hosted.
Due to Sixteenth Street’s prominence in the black community, and its central location to downtown Birmingham, the church served as headquarters for the civil rights mass meetings and rallies in the early 1960’s. During this time of trial, turmoil and confrontation, the church provided strength and safety for black men, women and children dedicated to breaking the bonds of segregation in Birmingham, a city that black citizens believed to be the most racist in America. Keep reading