Religion

Book sales will benefit historic church purchase

The First African Church was built in 1856 mostly by slaves and free blacks. Plans are to renovate it as a center dedicated to the lives of blacks in the Bluegrass.
The First African Church was built in 1856 mostly by slaves and free blacks. Plans are to renovate it as a center dedicated to the lives of blacks in the Bluegrass.

The First African Foundation will have a fund-raiser Saturday, proceeds of which will go toward the purchase of the historic First African Church at Short and Deweese streets.

The foundation hopes to renovate and develop a center dedicated to presenting the lives of blacks in the Bluegrass. The center will feature a concert hall (the old sanctuary), rehearsal rooms, and galleries for exhibition, a photographic library, community service space, a café, gift shop and administrative offices.

The church traces its roots to about 1790. The building, finished in 1856, was mostly financed and built by slaves. At the time, it was Kentucky's largest church congregation, black or white.

The fund-raiser will be from 1 to 5 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in The Mall at Lexington Green. An ensemble of singers from Kentucky State University will perform, and the following authors will sign their books: Gerald Smith, associate professor of African-American history and director of the African American Studies and Research Program; L. H. McIntyre, retired pastor of First African Baptist; Eric Brooks, curator Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate and photographer James Archambault.

Vouchers are available so that when presented with purchases Joseph-Beth will donate 20 percent of the sale to the foundation.

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