BIPOC in Majority-White Church Records

Introduction

This section is designed to facilitate finding of congregants and clergy of color in majority-white Congregational church and association/consociation records, including those who are solely identified in member rolls, baptisms, marriages, and death records. Various terms were commonly used to identify BIPOC church members or applicants within these records, including "negro," "mulatto," "Indian," "black," "colored," "people of colour," and "col'd."

In addition to these vital-statistical records, there are also Congregational association records from North Hartford which include several references to Black abolitionist minister Rev. James W. C. Pennington (1807–1870). There is also a rare reference to a slavery transaction within both the church and parish record books of the First Church in York, Maine from the 1730s.

 

Digitized Records

Abington, Mass. First Church

Several African American congregants are identified in the volume Church records, 1714-1749, in entries dating from 1741-1748.

Barnstable, Mass. East Parish Church

Black and Indigenous members are identified in the volume Church records, 1725-1816 between 1731 and 1769.

Boston, Mass. Old South Church

Numerous African Americans were baptized at this church and some were admitted to membership, particularly between 1730 and 1860. African Americans are also identified in marriage and death records and in some records of meeting minutes.

Brockton, Mass. First Parish Church

Church members identified as negro and mulatto are identified in the baptismal, membership, and marriages lists between 1742 and 1781.

Falmouth, Mass. First Congregational Church

At least five African Americans are identified in the baptisms and membership rolls of the volume Church records, 1731-1790, from 1732-1758. An African American couple is identified in the marriage records of 1787.

Franklin, Mass. Congregational Church

Three African Americans are identified in baptismal records within the volume Church records, 1737-1781 between 1741-1744.

Grafton, Mass. Congregational Church

Several Black and Indigenous members are identified in baptismal and membership rolls in the volume Church records, 1731-1774, between 1732 and 1747.

Hartford North Consociaton records, 1802-1844

Noted abolitionist and author Rev. James W. C. Pennington was also minister to many churches throughout his life, including Congregational and Presbyterian churches in Connecticut, New York, Mississippi, Maine, and Florida. Having escaped slavery in Maryland at the age of 19, Rev. Pennington went on to attend classes at Yale, receive ordination in the Congregational church, and travel to Europe where he lobbied extensively for the abolitionist cause in America. From 1840-1848 he was minister to the Talcott Street Church (now called Faith Congregational Church) in Hartford, Connecticut. It was during his ministry at Talcott Street that Pennington wrote what is believed to be the first history of African-Americans,The Origin and History of the Colored People. Rev. Pennington appears with some regularity in the records of the Hartford North Consociation (those dating after 1840). He is recorded as having led a group of white ministers in prayer on at least one occasion.

Marlborough, Mass. First Church

One congregant was identified as Indian in the baptismal records from 1730, in the volume Church records, 1704-1802. Although the Marlborough First records do not contain other racial notations, additional documentary evidence suggests that at least two African Americans were baptized between 1763 and 1773.

Mattapoisett, Mass. First Congregational Church

Several African American congregants are identified in the volume Church records, 1736-1855, from 1742 to 1785.

Merrimac, Mass. Pilgrim Congregational Church

Seven African Americans (people identified as "negro") and 1 Indian member are identified in baptismal records between 1740 and 1772, in the volume Church records, 1726-1821.

Middleboro, Mass. First Church

This collection contains 2 lists of church members, which identify five Black and one Indigenous members. African Americans church members are identified in baptisms and membership rolls between 1735-1754 and between 1773-1796, and in marriage records from at least 1757-1758. See also the relations and disciplinary records associated with Middleboro First members Cuffee/Cuffy Wright, Anna Wright, and Alice/Else Anthony in Firsthand Writings by BIPOC.

Wendell, Mass. Congregational Church

One African American member is identified on the 1782 baptismal list, within the volume Church records, 1783-1847.

York, Maine. First Church

The York records include a rare reference to a slavery transaction enacted by church committee. In 1732, the committee recorded their decision to procure a slave, identified only as Andrew, for their minister, the Rev. Samuel Moody. The records indicate that Andrew's services were deemed unsatisfactory, and that he was sold on soon after procurement and replaced with a hired servant. Although the purchase and ownership of enslaved individuals by Congregational ministers was relatively common practice at this time, its documentation within church and parish records is unusual.

 

Manuscript and Microfilm Records at the CLA

Bedford, Massachusetts. First Church of Christ records, [1730]-1998. RG 4390. 1 linear foot, 1 microfilm reel.
One African American ("a man of colour") was admitted to membership in 1807.

Boston, Massachusetts. Bowdoin Street Church records, 1825-1865. RG 0806. 2 linear feet (2 boxes).
Two African Americans became members of this church between 1828 and 1829. Four African Americans were interviewed by church leaders between 1828 and 1832, and summaries of these meetings remain in the church records.

Boston, Massachusetts. Green Street Church records, 1822-1844. RG 1066. 1 volume.
Two African Americans are identified in the membership lists between 1825 and 1827.

Brewster, Massachusetts. First Congregational Church records, 1700-1977. RG 1338. 1 microfilm reel.
Several African Americans are identified in these records between 1742 and 1750. There is also a discussion about an church member (not ordained) who was disciplined by the church for preaching to Indians.

Hopkinton, New Hampshire. First Congregational Church clerk records, 1757-1904. RG 4918. 1 microfilm reel.
A few African American members are identified on the membership, covenant, and baptismal lists between 1767 and 1790.

Medway, Massachusetts. West Medway Community Church, 1750-1901. RG 4685. 2 boxes.
At least three African Americans and one Indian are identified in the church records between 1753 and 1785.

Newton, Massachusetts. Central Congregational Church. Records, 1868-2003. RG 4680. 10 linear feet.
One African American (a “black woman”) is identified in the 1797 membership records and three African Americans are identified in the baptismal records 1797 to 1798.

North Middleboro, Massachusetts. Congregational Church records, 1747-1927. RG 1381. 1 microfilm reel.
Four African Americans are identified on the baptismal lists between 1760 and 1766.

West Woodstock, Connecticut manuscript church records in the Richard Boles’ Collection of New England church history, 1791-1958, 2012-2013. MS 5060.
In September 1834, when the Second Congregational Church of Woodstock, Connecticut, ordained a new minister, the church included two “colored” women among the one hundred twenty-four church members