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On August 12, 2009, the first black church on the Monterey Peninsula, The First Baptist Church of Pacific Grove, celebrated their Centennial Anniversary. The remarkable 100-year history highlights the church’s service as a spiritual, social and political focal point for African Americans in the region. The congregation was active in the civil rights movement, launching the first local chapter of the NAACP in 1932, and worked to desegregate the MPUSD faculty and the Peninsula landscape.

The First African-American Baptist Church of Pacific Grove

Many African-American families along with the families of servants and railroad workers who lived in the area formed the first African-American Baptist church in Pacific Grove, This was the first black church on the Monterey Peninsula. It was founded in Pacific Grove in 1909...” The church allowed African-Americans to feel a sense of culture and pride. There was a time when the church was about the only thing that blacks really owned, the only thing blacks could say was really theirs,” says Reverend Richard Nance, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pacific Grove since 1956. What began as Bethel Mission on Lighthouse Avenue eventually became the first Baptist Church of Pacific Grove at Fourth and Laurel which is still attended by many African-American families from throughout the area. Mrs. Smith states, that at least half a dozen or so of the families in the church belonged to men, who like her husband’s brothers, had come to the Presidio of Monterey with the Ninth Cavalry.” Some of the church members were cooks, maids and butlers who worked for wealthy whites in Pebble Beach and Carmel and others worked in the canneries. Thursday was a traditional day off, says Mrs. Smith, and a lot of the church members would drive their cars to Monterey and Pacific Grove to socialize with others in the black community.

- Sharon Randall, Black history of Monterey County
The Monterey Herald, February 24, 1991

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger pop-up versions of these congratulatory letters:

African American Legacy Project
Acts of Reclamation • Reciprocal University for the Arts Project • Made possible with a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation
Project Directors: Amalia Mesa-Bains & Richard Bains • Project Coordinator: Normi Burke
Visual and Public ArtMusic and Performing Arts  • California State University, Monterey Bay 
Building 71   100 Campus Center   Seaside, CA   93955   (831) 582-3005
w e b w e r k : a r t h u r
visual and public art - csu monterey bay music and performing arts - csu monterey bay the national steinbeck center - salinas, ca the nathan cummings foundation