These photos, found in the Walter Lawrence Smith collection, show a wedding that looks to have taken place in 1950. A note penciled on the back of one of the images in this collection tells us Mrs. Essleman and Mrs. Bates were interested in purchasing wedding photos. We might guess these are the names of the bride’s and groom’s mothers. Unfortunately, with only this little bit of information to go by, it’s very difficult to determine who is who, or find even find the bride or groom’s first name.
Where an event happened can help make a story more interesting. Judging from the background in these photos, this wedding took place in Detroit’s famous Second Baptist Church. It is the oldest African American church in Michigan. The church is on 441 Monroe Street in downtown Detroit. The wedding ceremony looks like it was held in the main sanctuary on the second floor. Does this church look familiar to you? Do you have any relatives who are members of the congregation?
Knowing the history of a place can help you better understand an event. Second Baptist Church has a very important place in American history. In the 1800s, the church set out to free slaves and help them become equal citizens. To do this, the church became a stop along the Underground Railroad. Members of the church gave food and shelter to escaped slaves on their way to Canada. The parishioners were also part of the Equal Rights Movement. The movement gave African American men the right to vote. The congregation formed the Baptist Association for Coloured People. This group fought against slavery, helped escaped slaves to safety, and start more Baptist churches. They also started the first school for African American children in Detroit, and helped people without jobs get work at the Ford Plant.ng
Knowing everything the Second Baptist Church has done over the past 160 years helps give a better idea of why this couple may have chosen to have their wedding at the church. Can you give some reasons why the Essleman/Bates families would have picked this church to get married in?
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