John the Baptist Church
Established in 1846 by free people of color and slaves, the First Baptist Colored Church of Pensacola was both the first black church in Pensacola, and the first interracial church in the area, although this transition was less than positive for many of the early congregants. Although formed by people of color, the influx of white residents into the area changed the composition of Pensacola-an area where slavery had once been rare due to Spain's willingness to grant freedom to people of African descent who would support the empire. With the United State's purchase of Florida from Spain, slavery soon spread into the area and white trustees assumed control of the church by the late 1840s. Although slaves and masters attended services together prior to the Civil War, whites assumed control of the congregation and taught that the Bible counseled slaves to obey their masters. When white citizens fled the area in anticipation of the Union Army's occupation, this was the only church to remain in operation. Today, John the Baptist Church is the oldest black church in Pensacola. It is also the only connection between the present black community and Hawk Shaw, the early African American community in Pensacola.
Backstory and Context