Church History

First Baptist Church was organized on September 3, 1865, out of The Baptist Church of Chapel Hill, now the University Baptist Church, by Rev. Eddie H. Cole. Rev. Cole was one of the first African American ministers ordained and sent out the white congregation with the authority to organize churches in the Chapel Hill area for African Americans. Since its inception, our church has had four names: Colored Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, Rock Hill Baptist Church and then the First Baptist Church, again.

From the minutes of the University Baptist Church, dated September 3, 1865, on page 152, the following was written: “On motion, it was unanimously voted that the colored patrons of this church be allowed to withdraw from the church and organize a church to themselves.” It is further noted on page 154, from the Annual Report for 1865, “Four members have been dismissed by letter besides sixty-one colored members dismissed in September for the purpose of forming a separate church. This separate church, known as the Colored Baptist Church of Chapel Hill, is now in an acceptable operation and hopes are entertained of its doing well.” As a gift, the University Baptist Church donated pulpit furniture to the Colored Baptist Church.

Under Rev. Cole’s leadership, the congregation met in The Quaker Building, an old schoolhouse on Franklin Street until their own small church was erected on Franklin Street, opposite from the Colonial Drug Company. After Rev. Cole’s death, Rev. Eli Mitchell, a student at Shaw University, served as pastor for one year.

In 1877, Rev. L.H. Hackney, also a Shaw University student, became the third pastor of this congregation and served for sixty years (1877-1937). Under his administration, the congregation grew so rapidly that the original building became too small. Another building was erected, which stood on the same site as the original church until 1953 when the next building was completed. Reverend Hackney was a public school education who was known as a fearless preacher. As his health declined, in later years, Rev. J.H. Jones was called to become his assistant pastor, a position he held for two years. Rev. Hackney retired in January of 1937.

In August of 1937, Rev. J.R. Standford, another Shaw University student, was called as pastor. Under his leadership, the old church was remodeled and a building fund was started. Rev. Standford served as pastor for nine years (1937-1946) before accepting the call to become the pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and then Zion Hill Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey.

In September of 1946, the Rev. J.R. Manley, from Shaw University, became the fifth called pastor of this historic congregation. Under his guidance and leadership, the congregation more than tripled its membership. A new site was purchased, and a new brick edifice was erected for the cost of $110,000 and a parsonage for the cost of $10,000, as well as other property, at a cost of $7,500. Through the untiring efforts of Dr. Manley and the splendid working spirit of the congregation, the mortgages of these properties were burned on December 2, 1956. Eventually, First Baptist Church erected a new parsonage for the cost of $40,000, as well as an educational building and an elevator for the church. Dr. J.R. Manley retired in January of 201, after serving sixty-five years as pastor. Dr. J.R. Manley currently serves as the Pastor Emeritus of FBC.

In August of 2013, history was made again, at the First Baptist Church of Chapel Hill, when Dr. Rodney L. Coleman became the sixth called pastor of this historic church. With God’s help and blessings, the support of the FBC congregation, under the leadership of Dr. Rodney Coleman, FBC has increased numerically, with over 50 newly baptized believers, and approximately 200 new members, who have joined under watch care and by Christian experience. Various existing ministries have grown in membership and several new ministries have been created (Community Action and Political Awareness Ministry, Pure Praise Dance Ministry, The Golden Delights Dance Ministry, the Praise and Worship Team, and a Grief Support  Group). FBC has been blessed to launch a Children and Teen’s Ministry, which includes Children’s Church on 1st and 2nd Sundays and Teen’s Church on 3rd and 4th Sunday. Under Dr. Coleman’s spiritual guidance and administration, FBC has been blessed to revamp its College Ministry which resulted in a dramatic increase in consistent and active college students each Sunday. In addition, two deacons and three trustees, a Ministry of Outreach, a Minister of Worship and the hiring of a Minister of Music, Assistant Pastor, and music staff.

FBC was blessed to upgrade its audio and video ministry, which included new audio and video equipment, with the capability of recording worship services and streaming online. This has resulted in the addition of “FBC Satellite Members” as well as online giving capabilities.

Before the passing of our Pastor Emeritus, Dr. J.R. Manley, Pastor Coleman initiated the J.R. Manley Scholarship/Internship Fund, in honor of Dr. Manley, to be awarded to a student in ministry or community development.

FBC continues to commit to and carry out its motto, “Building People While Building the Kingdom.”

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106 North Roberson Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Phone: (919) 942-2552
Fax: (919) 942-2586


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