First Anti-slavery Baptist Church (Chillicothe, Ohio)
The First Regular African Baptist Church of Christ of Chillicothe, the predecessor of the First Anti-slavery Baptist Church and of the First Baptist Church, was an African-American church established in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1824.
In July 1824, David Nickens and other African Americans in Chillicothe decided to form the First Regular African Baptist Church of Christ of Chillicothe. Nickens served as one of the church's earliest pastors, becoming the first ordained African-American pastor in Ohio in October 1824. The church and its members were committed to ending slavery and actively assisted runaway slaves in escaping along the Underground Railroad. Illustrating the desire to end slavery, during the 1830s, the congregation changed the church's name to the First Anti-slavery Baptist Church of Chillicothe. The congregation also sponsored a school for African-American children during the 1860s.
In 1869, the congregation purchased its current building at 65 West Fourth Street in Chillicothe. Over the years, the congregation has expanded and renovated the structure. Now known as the First Baptist Church of Chillicothe, the church continues to hold services today.
The First Regular African Baptist Church of Christ of Chillicothe illustrates the prejudice that existed in Ohio during the years before the American Civil War. Ohio was a state that did not allow slavery. Nevertheless, that did not mean that whites were open to granting African Americans equal rights. Free blacks found that it was difficult to get fair treatment, and they often formed their own communities and institutions away from whites.