Second Baptist Church Culminates Our Celebration of Black History Month

Friday February 26, 2021

As MVT CID’s commemoration of Black History Month draws to a close, we celebrate the long, rich and venerable history of one of DC’s oldest cultural landmarks that is located in our own community. Located at 816 Third Street NW, Second Baptist Church is of our community’s longest-standing structures, the oldest of Mount Vernon Triangle’s three historically-significant churches, and DC’s second-oldest African American Baptist congregation. Founded in 1848 just 14 years before slaves were freed in DC, Second Baptist Church was one of the few congregations that had a Black minister before President Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861.

During a recent visit, Rev. Dr. James E. Terrell, who serves as Second Baptist Church pastor and is a MVT CID Board Member, shared with MVT CID staff a recently discovered photo of Jeremiah Asher (see below), who in 1849 became the church’s first ordained pastor. He fought for the Union during the Civil War and as part of the clergy was responsible for placing African American chaplains in the Army throughout the war.

Second Baptist Church was as a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War and established a nationally recognized Sunday School Lyceum – at one point considered the largest in the United States – that included Booker T. Washington as a member and hosted orations by notable luminaries such as Frederick Douglass and Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr.

Read their nomination request for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places to learn more about the incredible legacy of Second Baptist Church—a physical and spiritual embodiment of Black history that we include proudly in the story of Mount Vernon Triangle’s rich past and its equally exciting future!