Calvary Baptist Church, Louisville

Historical Marker #1845 in Louisville notes the historical significance of Calvary Baptist Church to the city's African American community.

Purchased for $1 and deeded to Henry Smith, a free man of color, in 1833, the plot of ground became a strong symbol of solidarity and community. Calvary Baptist Church actually predated its deed when, in 1829, a congregation of African American Baptists began meeting at the location. In the following years a number of members branched out and formed other black Baptist churches in Louisville, but Calvary is noted as being the first black church in Louisville.

One of the church’s noted pastors was Charles H. Parrish, Sr., an early Kentucky Civil Rights advocate. Parrish was born into slavery in Fayette County, Kentucky, in 1859. As a youth he attended a freedman's school in Lexington and graduated from Louisville Normal and Theological Institute (later Simmons University) in 1886. Parrish worked diligently during the Jim Crow era to create opportunities for African American advancement. He became president of a teacher’s college, Eckstein Norton College in Cane Spring, Kentucky, and founded the Kentucky Home Society for Colored Children. Parrish also served as the president of his alma mater, Simmons University, from 1918 until his death in 1931. His life was full of service to his fellow man. In addition to his educational efforts, he served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church from 1886 until his death. His son, Charles H. Parrish, Jr., carried on the family legacy when he was named the first African American professor at the University of Louisville.

In the late 1950s, Calvary Baptist moved from its historic location. A new church was purchased at 28th and Woodland Streets. It remains there today, as it has in the past, an active part of its community.