The Impact of Churches

Trail Marker

Intersection of 13th Street & 27th Avenue between New Hope Missionary Baptist & St. Paul United Methodist, Meridian, MS

Meridian’s Black churches were the heart and soul of the Civil Rights movement. Educating the African-American community was essential to furthering the movement. Both New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and St. Paul United Methodist Church were leaders in the area of education.

New Hope, which was founded in 1868, is Meridian’s oldest Black Baptist church. The Meridian Baptist Seminary held classes in the basement of New Hope from 1896 until 1905. The original church building was also used by Meridian Public Schools from 1892 to 1894.

St. Paul was organized in 1866. The church is located on the site of Meridian Academy (later Haven Institute), a historically significant Black educational institute. In 1913, two libraries were built in Meridian with funds provided by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, one for whites and one for Blacks. The Black Carnegie Branch Library was built on land donated by St. Paul. According to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, it is believed to be the only Black library built with an original Carnegie grant. The library closed in 1974, and the property reverted to the church. After years of nonuse, the library deteriorated, and the church demolished the building in 2008.

One prominent member of St. Paul’s congregation was C. R. Darden, who served as Meridian’s NAACP president in the 1950s and later served on the national board.

Directions to next marker (Wechsler School): Continue down 13th Street to 30th Avenue; turn right on 30th Avenue and continue to 15th Street; turn left on 15th Street; Wechsler is immediately on left.

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