Grant awarded to renovate historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

The church was one of the spiritual homes of the civil rights movement

Historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church is getting a second chance to impact the community.

A $4 million Community Project Funding Grant has been awarded to help restore the landmark church, which is located at 775 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive S.W.

The church was led for decades by the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy Sr. and was one of the spiritual homes of the civil rights movement, where people gathered to worship and strategize.

Abernathy, who died in 1990, was a civil rights leader, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a close confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Rev. Gerald Durley, pastor emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, remembers going to the church for strategy meetings as a young student at Tennessee State University in Nashville during the 1960s.

“We would meet there, sit and talk,” with others during the movement, he said. “We would get inspired and it gave us the confidence. We found strength in each other.”

Although it is no longer used as a functioning church, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams (D-5th) said in a statement that it is “still a sacred place—the house of Reverend Abernathy’s legacy. And as I so often say of the giants of the civil rights movement who preceded me: I have an obligation to build on their legacy.”

Williams said the funds will be used to restore the sanctuary and Abernathy’s office exactly as it was when he served as the church’s 16th pastor from 1961 to 1990..

“The grant is not creating a museum,” rather the funds will “transform Historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church into a living, active community space. People will come here to learn more about Rev. Abernathy and then carry on his work. This truly honors the legacy of Rev. Abernathy.”

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The church moved to 1040 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. in 1973.

“Dr. Abernathy always had the doors of the church open,” said Annette Abernathy, president of the Ralph David Abernathy III Foundation. “We want the church to be alive and a vibrant member of the Vine City community and others.”

The church earlier received $2.5 million from the National Park Service, said Abernathy.

On land donated to the foundation, Abernathy said plans include a plaza, life-sized statues of the elder Abernathy and his wife, Juanita Abernathy, as well as footprints of unsung heroes of the movement.”

Williams also introduced the Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. National Historic Site Act, which would add the property to the National Register of Historic Places.

This week, Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael G. Warnock also introduced bipartisan legislation to recognize the church as a National Historic Site.