Located in Blowing Rock on Possum Hollow Road, there is a church known as the First Independent Baptist, which is still standing today. Up until 1980, the structure was home to the Blowing Rock Negro Community Church. Built in 1949, it was Blowing Rock’s first and only African American church.
A community fund drive supported the
opening of the church. Blowing Rock accommodated numerous African Americans
during the summers due to their employment by private companies (Eason). It
became a home for the black community and allowed them to demonstrate their
faith. The South was still segregated, but the
church made way for integration and the appointment of black leaders. “The
church was in large part a product of white paternalism during the era of
segregation” (Pezzoni 225). There were also nonreligious components of the
church, including a Negro Community Center for social and recreational activities.
The goal associated with joining the
community center with a religious facility was to do away with the social
activities local blacks participated in, which offended white sponsors (Pezzoni
226). The community center included a barbershop, a beauty parlor, and kitchen amenities
because these were considered appropriate. A committee of white townspeople are
the ones who decided to open this church as a “more wholesome alternative to
the bar known as Tin Top, a popular diversion for
the some of the town's African American population” (VanWinkle).
This was both a boarding house for blacks, a nightclub, and the only restaurant
that served them.
Before the church came about, activities were
presented for whites and blacks to attend, in which white residents and visitors came to “hear the Negros
sing,” (Pezzoni 225) which may have left this group feeling tokenized. There
were also services meant particularly for blacks, but on a small scale, and offered as a form of white paternalism. This system did not prove to be sustainable for
whites or African Americans. What developed instead was a communal
place of worship that supported Blowing Rock's resident and visiting African American community. The church earned a marker in
2016 to indicate its importance.