HOUSTON- In January of 1866, seven months after slaves were freed in Texas a small group of freed slaves organized the first African-American Baptist Church in Houston.
After holding worship services at the First Baptist Church and the German Baptist Church, they began to hold services on Buffalo Bayou in a “Brush Arbor.” Later, they moved to “Baptist Hill” located at Rusk and Bagby until the present site was purchased. Services were conducted by ministers who traveled to different locations, at stated times.
In 1868, one of Antioch’s members, Rev. Jack Yates, was ordained at the first Association meeting for African-American Baptist Churches. This was the first National Baptist Convention. Rev. Jack Yates became the first pastor of Antioch. Out of growth and necessity, Yates led the church to purchase its present site and build a brick structure. The church, located in the center of Freedman’s Town, was the center of activity for the African-American community. It was the first brick structure built and owned by African-Americans in Houston.
Antioch provided the former slaves with opportunities to learn not only about God, but also provided ministries to help them develop educationally, economically and socially. The first educational opportunity for freed African-Americans began at Antioch. With the help of two missionaries, Rev. Yates began the Baptist Academy. The Baptist Academy taught fundamentals such as: reading, writing, and arithmetic,; in addition to trades, thus enabling men and women to start their own businesses. The Baptist Academy later became Houston College. Houston College was the forerunner of Texas Southern University. Economic development and recreational activities were also encouraged and supported at Antioch. The Old Landmark Baptist Association of Texas was organized at Antioch. Under Rev. Yates’ leadership, members were encouraged and assisted in buying property, owning homes and businesses. With the vision and support of Rev. Yates and Antioch, the first African-American College in the state of Texas began (Bishop College).
The Red Brick Church was designed by African-American Richard Allen, who was also a member of the Texas Legislature. The Red Brick Church was erected in 1875 and was the first brick structure owned by African-Americans in Houston, Texas. The second story was added in 1890. The structure’s Gothic features, with pointed arch windows and doors, have been nationally acclaimed. Today members still worship in the sanctuary’s original handmade pews.
The Antioch of today is nestled between giant skyscrapers, surrounded by steel and concrete. Under the leadership of Pastor O. B. Winkley, Jr., he continues to serve the needs her people and her community, proudly proclaiming the message: Jesus Saves!
The Celebration of 147 Years of History
Additionally, over the Feb. 23-24 weekend, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, will celebrate its 147 years of History as a religious, educational and cultural institution. Pastor O. B. Winkley, Jr., and the congregation invite the public to the two-day event featuring the church’s youth in a instrumental musical recital at 3 p.m., on Saturday, February 23rd and guest minister, Rev. Jerry Wade, Sr. of Houston’s Providence Missionary Baptist Church, to deliver a message and musical praises beginning at 10:15 a.m., on Sunday, February 24th.
For more information, contact the church at (713) 652-0738 or visit www.antiochdowntown.org.