Fourth Street Baptist Church was recently approved as a Kentucky Historical Marker, and a ceremony is scheduled for later this month. The downtown church, which will also celebrate its 190th anniversary in October, is the oldest Black church in Owensboro and the surrounding area.
City Commissioner Pam Smith-Wright submitted the KHM application to the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort.
Fourth Street Baptist has a prevalent history in Owensboro. The primarily Black congregation was once part of First Baptist Church before being given their own church to practice their faith.
“The slave owners would bring their slaves to First Baptist. The slaves had to sit in the balcony,” Smith-Wright said. “After a while the slaves started to outnumber the members, so they gave them their own church.”
Smith-Wright said Fourth Street Baptist is considered Owensboro’s “mother church” for the Black community. It took months of hard work, research and back-and-forth with those in Frankfort, she said.
Smith-Wright, a longtime member of Fourth Street Baptist, decided to keep the application process a secret because she wanted to surprise the church if the application was accepted.
“I submitted the application in August. I wanted to do it unbeknownst to the church. I was able to get it done,” Smith-Wright said.
The Historical Marker Program said they needed at least 30 days’ notice to hold a ceremony, so Smith-Wright got to work as quickly as she could.
“The governor hasn’t really released them to [perform these ceremonies] yet and they have to be there to unveil it,” she said. “They said, ‘Pam, we’re coming. We’re going to do this.’”
Smith-Wright said she already met with a road engineer regarding the placement for the KHM sign that will stand in front of the church.
An unveiling ceremony will take place Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. at Fourth Street Baptist Church, located at 821 W. Fourth St. The event is open to the public, and those in attendance will be asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing during the event.