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Knoxville's first African American church celebrates 150th anniversary

By Jeaneane Payne

mount zion baptist church knoxville
Mount Zion Baptist Church Choir
Photo by John Disque

mount zion baptist church knoxville
Knoxville's first African American church, Mount Zion Baptist Church, marked its 150th anniversary on Sunday, November 21. Mount Zion has been celebrating its sesquicentennial since December 2009.

The church began as part of First Baptist Church of Knoxville which was founded in 1843 and was comprised of 26 white persons and 20 "colored" persons, as historical records indicate. From the time of its founding, First Baptist Church experienced difficulties, including the choosing of a suitable leader, indebtedness, and doctrinal controversies.

In 1860, only three years before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, three individuals began seeking spiritual freedom by forming the First Baptist Church, Colored. Thirteen years later, its membership of over 150 constructed a building on property located on Patton Street and renamed the church Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Mount Zion has grown considerably over the years and has been under the leadership of the Reverend Dr. Johnnie William Skinner, Sr. since June 1, 1991. Dr. Skinner came with an inward drive to promote the qualities of self-esteem, self-worth, pride, and love for the black family. Among the many programs and activities he has promoted are the Male Mentorship Program for young African-American males; the ordination and installation of the first African-American female Associate Minister of Mount Zion, The Reverend Geraldine Pippin; all African American Sunday, when all African-Americans are given an opportunity to rekindle their African heritage by coming to worship service in ethnic, African clothing, and church retreats.

Published November 22, 2010

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