The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church was founded in 1877 in a slave trader’s pen, located on Dexter Avenue (formerly Market Street) in Montgomery, Alabama.
Formed by a breakaway segment of the congregation from the “Brick-a-Day” First Baptist Church, on January 30, 1879, the Church’s trustees purchased a 50′ by 110′ lot for $270.00 on the corner of Dexter Avenue and Decatur Street near the Capitol building, as the permanent location of their church. A small wood frame structure located on the lot was used for worship service and educational purposes; the current red brick building was constructed between 1883 and 1889.
The Church has a history of community service that spans well over a century. On October 3, 1887, the first registration of students for Alabama State University (then the Normal School for Colored Students) was held in the lower unit of the church. Over the years, it has served the community through the use of its facilities as a meeting place for many civic, educational, and religious groups, and through its human resources. Much of Montgomery’s early civil rights activity – most famously the 1956 Bus Boycott – was directed by Dr. King from his office in the lower unit of the church.
The Church’s original name – the Second Colored Baptist Church – was later changed to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church after Market Street was renamed Dexter Avenue in honor of Andrew Dexter, founder of the city. In 1978, the name was changed to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, in memory of its twentieth pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who led the congregation from 1954 to 1960.
In 1980, twenty years after Dr. King left the church and twelve years after his assassination, artist and Dexter deacon John W. Feagin painted a 10′ by 47′ mural at the church depicting scenes of Dr. King’s journey from Montgomery to Memphis during the Civil Rights Movement. It portrays in vivid color the segregated facilities of the Jim Crow era, along with the struggles, sorrows, prejudices, and personalities of the Civil Rights Movement that followed. Beginning with the bus boycott, it traces the long and tedious American journey for equality that was kickstarted in Montgomery under Dr.King’s leadership.
The church building was designated a national historic landmark on June 3, 1974, and Montgomery added the church to its list of historic sites on July 13, 1976. Today, thousands of national and international tourists annually visit the Church to be inspired by and educated on the history of the Church and it and Dr. King’s role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The Dexter Parsonage Museum, historically the home to twelve pastors of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church from 1920 to 1992, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It was restored in 2003 by the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Foundation, Inc., under the direction of church members acting as an Authentication Committee.