Sixth Avenue Baptist Church

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Interior of 6th Avenue Baptist Church in 1972

Sixth Avenue Baptist Church is a Baptist church located at 1101 Martin Luther King Jr Drive in South Titusville. With over 5,000 members it is the largest black church in the city. The current pastor is John Cantelow. He became pastor in 2011, he grew up in the church and was first licensed to preachy by John Porter who lead the congregation for four decades.

The congregation was founded in Southside on June 18, 1881 as the Second Colored Baptist Church largely due to the efforts of M. G. Kendrick. Its first building was constructed at at 16th Street and 6th Avenue South. (The First Colored Baptist Church, on the north side, later became 16th Street Baptist Church.) It hosted the 23rd session of the Colored Baptist Convention of Alabama in November 1890.

The original frame building was replaced with a masonry edifice designed by noted African-American architect Wallace Rayfield in 1910. The address was 1529 6th Avenue South. The blocky massing of the building, with thick the main floor raised over a basement hall and accessed by broad central stairs flanked by square towers, was characteristic of Rayfield's style. The relatively plain exterior with large expanses of brick over a rusticated base was also typical. The elaborate cupola over the center of the church was refined from his original rendering and employed a mansard roof with small gables on each face. A bell tower was located to the rear of the building, where a 2-story wing was constructed with room for Sunday School classes. The building was reported to have been constructed for $35,000. Additional education space was added in a separate building adjoining to the church in 1928.

Postcard view of 6th Avenue Baptist Church

During the Civil Rights Movement 6th Avenue Baptist hosted numerous mass meetings, as well as the joint funeral for three of the four girls killed in the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.

In 1968 the church sold its property in the emerging Medical Center and temporarily held services at Ullman High School until completing the move to a new building, designed by Lawrence Whitten & Son architects, on Montevallo Road (which was renamed for Martin Luther King Jr in the 1980s). The church held its first services there on March 3, 1970

A new Wicks pipe organ (Opus 6214) was installed at the church in 1991.

The church sponsors the 6th Avenue Baptist Child Development Center preschool program.

The church's men's choir, dubbed the Men of Distinction Male Chorus, frequently performs for civic events and was nominated for a Birmingham Area Music Award in 2008.



  • Boothe, Charles Octavius (1895) Cyclopedia of the Colored Baptists of Alabama: Their Leaders and Their Work Birmingham: Alabama Publishing Co. Documenting the American South (2001) University of North Carolina Library
  • Turner, John T. and Nathan Hale Turner, Jr (2004) Keep Looking Up: The History of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, 1881-2001.
  • "From early days blacks bound to the church." (December 19, 1971) The Birmingham News
  • Garrison, Greg (November 4, 2004) "He keeps looking up: Porter, Turner write history of largest black church in Birmingham." The Birmingham News
  • Resolution Commending the 125th Anniversary of the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church of Birmingham HB388, sponsored by Sonny Perdue and read on March 2, 2006

External links