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.
Read more in the press release. Check back here for more information coming soon.
- Washington Post: Beneath a Virginia parking lot rest the bones of an old Black church and, perhaps, its worshipers
- Smithsonian Magazine: Archaeologists Are Excavating One of the Nation’s Oldest Black Churches
- NBC News: Archaeologists dig to uncover one of America's first Black churches in Colonial Williamsburg
- WAVY: Colonial Williamsburg starts dig at site of historic Black church