Filed Under Churches

Ebenezer Baptist Church

A Church of Many Names

The congregation of Ebenezer Baptist Church was born from the first independent African-American church in Providence. In 1819, black congregants withdrew from the First Baptist Church and built the African Union Meeting and Schoolhouse. In 1884, an independent congregation born from this community was organized under the name Ebenezer, worshipping on A Street and later at 135 Dodge Street in the city’s West End. The beautiful and unusual Richardsonian Romanesque church the congregation now occupies at 475 Cranston Street was originally built for the Cranston Street Baptist Church, a white congregation formed by missionary Moses H. Bixby in 1869. New York architect Arthur Bates Jennings designed the church, which was dedicated in 1893. By 1969, the white congregation had dwindled and the church buildings were sold to neighboring Ebenezer, which had grown to be one of the largest and most active African-American congregations in the city. Reverend Carl H. Balark Jr. has led the church since 1992 and continues the tradition of strength and action. He was the first African-American to lead the Rhode Island Council of Churches. Notable speakers at the church include Jesse Jackson and Sallye Davis, who spoke in 1971 to raise funds for the legal defense of her daughter, activist Angela Davis. Mrs. Davis said at Ebenezer’s pulpit, “If Angela gets out [of jail] tomorrow, I would carry on the fight. We can’t be content until all of us are free.”


<p>Historic Photo of Ebenezer Baptist Church</p>

Historic Photo of Ebenezer Baptist Church

This is the Arthur Bates Jennings-designed Richardsonian Romanesque church as it appeared in 1936 when the Cranston Street-Roger Williams Baptist Church still occupied the building. Source: Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library. Date: 1936
Asa Messer's Estate
Asa Messer's Estate 200 years ago, this stretch of Cranston Street was the country estate of Asa Messer (1739-1836). His Federal-style house, demolished in the late 19th century, was a landmark. Source: Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library.
Cranston Street Baptist Church
Cranston Street Baptist Church The first Cranston Street Baptist Church, is pictured here in 1876 after a series of expansions. The fields of Messer's estate are visible on the right, and the new homes being built in the neighborhood line Ford Street behind the church. Source: Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library. Date: 1876


475 Cranston Street, Providence, RI 02907


Taylor M. Polites, “Ebenezer Baptist Church,” Rhode Tour, accessed June 13, 2024,