African Baptist Church (Paris, KY)The African Baptist Church in Paris, KY, grew out of the Baptist Church of Christ (for whites) that was constituted in Paris, KY, in 1818. The Baptist Church of Christ had begun in Tennessee in 1808 and spread to other southern states.
During a revival in the winter of 1827-1828, 46 slaves were received into the Baptist Church of Christ in Paris. In 1832, the Reformation Movement caused the church to split, and in 1833 the church was reorganized with 48 white members. As the church grew, there would again be African American members, most of whom were slaves. In 1855, these African American members were separated from the Baptist Church of Christ by Elder J. B. Link, with their own church known as the African Baptist Church led by Reverend Elisha W. Green from 1855-1893.
Rev. John Fisher was pastor for one year. Rev. Henry Battle Webster from Woodford County was pastor of the church beginning in 1896. The congregation built a church on 8th Street in 1858; today the church is known as First Baptist at 128 W. 8th Street.
The church was initially under the rule of the Baptist Church of Christ with the threat that if the congreagation attempted to act independently of the parent church, then the African Baptist Church would be closed. In the summer of 1884, a branch of the African Baptist Church split and became the Zion Baptist Church in Paris.
The split was due to the dissatisfaction of members who wanted church services to be held more than twice a month; Rev. Green was pastor of two churches and led services at each church twice a month. He refused to give up one church in order to have services every Sunday at the other church. He did, however, help organize the Zion Baptist Church with the help of Rev. M. M. Bell.
The church was first located in Marble Hall on Main Street. The first pastor was Rev. W. R. Davis. Today the Zion Baptist Church is located at 312 W. 8th Street in Paris, KY.
For more information see "New Baptist Church," The Bourbon News, 12/16/1910, p. 3; A History of Baptists in Kentucky, by F. M. Masters; and "Rev. Henry Battle Webster, D.D." on pp. 225-226 and "Zion Baptist Church, Paris, KY" on p. 282 in Golden Jubilee of the General Association of Colored Baptists in Kentucky.