In antebellum Augusta, Springfield Baptist Church was the center of the black community, where nonwhites went to worship, learn and organize.
"As during most of its existence, Springfield Church offered its members an oasis of calm and biblical spirituality during the turbulent antebellum era," historian Edward J. Cashin wrote in Old Springfield: Race and Religion in Augusta, Georgia.
Springfield, founded in 1787, is believed to be the nation's oldest continuously meeting black church.
In 1861, church members held a concert to raise money for Augusta's volunteer Confederate soldiers, perhaps because they had personal attachments to the men, according to Cashin.
One of the church members published The Colored American , one of the South's first black newspapers. Springfield was the birthplace of the Georgia Republican Party. The church also operated a burial society, providing early insurance-type benefits for its members.
The church was the birthplace of Morehouse College, an all-male black college in Atlanta that has graduated leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther King Sr., Maynard Jackson and Benjamin E. Mays.