Historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church
West Hunter Street Baptist Church was founded in 1881 as Mount Calvary Baptist Church. The congregation’s Gothic Revival stone sanctuary was constructed in 1906 at the corner of West Hunter Street (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive) and Chestnut Street (now James P. Brawley Drive). Beginning in 1961, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, Sr., it served as a strategic and emotional headquarters of the Civil Rights Movement.
Ralph David Abernathy, a young Baptist minister, befriended and partnered with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Montgomery, with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and then the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Abernathy family was encouraged by the King family to move to Georgia and become pastor of West Hunter Street Baptist Church. Abernathy served as pastor from 1961 until his death in 1990, during that time moving the congregation to a new and larger facility.
West Hunter Street Baptist Church’s building served as a spiritual meeting place and key location for the Civil Rights Movement. Students gathered and trained there, members worked for the movement, and Abernathy and King held strategy meetings in the office. In the 1970s, the building hosted operations aimed to elect Atlanta’s first black mayor (Maynard Jackson) and Georgia’s first black congressman (Andrew Young).
Auburn Avenue may be the birthplace of civil rights, but the Westside is the workplace of civil rights.
After playing a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement and the political advancement of African-Americans in Atlanta, the church building sat vacant and fell into disrepair. The Ralph David Abernathy III Foundation purchased the building in 2008.
Thanks to generous funding from the National Park Service, the Historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church is now in the process of being rehabbed and renovated. A new roof will soon be installed, and damaged stained glass windows are now undergoing restoration in Virginia.
Now that the building has been rescued from destruction, we are working to complete the restoration and bring this historic building back to life. This is the first such restoration and interpretation project in the Westside of Atlanta.
It is our goal that the restoration and interpretation of the Historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church will be the beckoning call that begins the transformation of this historic community and restores admiration for the actions of a very special group of Americans.
Fulfilling the vision of Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy III, we will return the Historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church to its former position as a vital institution in the Westside community. The renovated structure will be open to the general public, hosting exhibitions, presentations, celebrations, and activism.
We are already partnering with faculty and students at Atlanta’s historically black colleges and universities, such as Clark Atlanta University, to conduct research and develop content.
The Historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church is owned by the Ralph David Abernathy III Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. The foundation was created by the late Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy III, son of the church’s longtime pastor. The foundation is now led by Ralph III’s wife Annette.
Ralph III’s dream was to restore his father’s legacy, of which the church was an important part. Before his death, Ralph III worked and made great progress toward having the property declared a National Historic Site, which is continuing to move forward.