Ornamental Separator

First Baptist Church Archaeology Project

Under the guidance of First Baptist Church —one of America’s oldest churches founded entirely by Blacks, Colonial Williamsburg archaeologists will begin excavating this nationally significant site in early September to find the earliest structure within the city limits where the congregation met. If successful, this initiative will enable Colonial Williamsburg to expand its Black-interpretative programming through voices that have been silent since the Revolution.

In May, First Baptist Church and Colonial Williamsburg teamed up with archaeologists from the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation to conduct ground-penetrating radar. Radar indicates that remains of this early structure used by members of First Baptist Church—originally founded in secret by free and enslaved Blacks at the start of America’s Revolution—may lie buried near the intersection of Nassau and Francis streets in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. It’s here that archaeologists and church leaders hope to unearth evidence of what researchers believe may have been the structure that was offered for their use by a white landowner named Jesse Cole, who owned the property at the time. The team also will explore how the congregation used the structure and seek to identify any burial sites present so they can be protected and memorialized.

Check back here for more information coming soon.

News

November 2020 – As phase one of excavations wrap up, community and archaeology project leaders met to discuss to share key findings, including evidence of burial grounds. Watch our community meeting in the video section below.


October 2020
– Phase one excavations revealed intact foundations of the early First Baptist Church structure. In addition to unearthing the church’s 19th-century foundations, archaeologists found a smaller brick structure that predates the 1856 building.


September 2020
- Under guidance of First Baptist Church, we began to excavate the site of America’s oldest church founded by enslaved and free blacks at the intersection of Nassau and Francis streets in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. Read our press release.


May 2020 -
First Baptist Church and Colonial Williamsburg teamed up with archaeologists from the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation to conduct ground-penetrating radar. Radar indicated evidence of remains of the early structure used by members of First Baptist Church — originally founded in secret by free and enslaved Blacks at the start of America’s Revolution — prompting the planning of further excavations.


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The first phase has already yielded significant findings and set the stage for future discoveries - please help us continue this important work by making a gift today.

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Videos

Reports

First Baptist Church Press Release

First Baptist Church Archaeological Research Design

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