In 1790 Peter Durrette, also known as “Old Captain,” founded an African American church. Durrette was a slave owned by John Maxwell. Maxwell supported Durrette’s effort to create a place of worship for African Americans to be separated from the Whites’ churches in Lexington. Maxwell helped Durrette find a meeting place for his church, called the African Baptist Church. From this church arose Pleasant Green.
There was a division of the church and a portion of the congregation purchased in 1822 the land where Pleasant Green is currently located. In 1839, the church was given the name Pleasant Green Baptist Church. In 1855, George W. Dupee became the pastor and the church purchased his freedom for $850 with money on loan from the First Baptist Church; they made $8.30 weekly payments on the loan. (See a picture of Dupee in James T. Haley’s Afro-American Encyclopaedia, 1895, available online via UNC-Chapel Hill’s Documenting the American South digitization project.)
Rev. William Morrison Bell succeeded Dupee as the pastor from 1867 to 1979. During this time, one of the first African American schools was held within the church. In 1913, Rev. E. T. Offutt became the pastor and served for 26 years.
The previous church building was built in 1872 and then leveled in 1930 to make way for the present-standing church built on November 30, 1931. Presently the church is being pastored by Rev. T. H. Peoples, Jr.
Rev. W. A. Jones Sr. pastored the church during the critical civil rights era in Lexington from 1940-1968. See more on this in a research journal entry on this website. The Reverend’s son, LaMont Jones (also a Reverend now), remembers that time along with his wife Kaye Jones in this clip from a longer oral history interview with Dawn Bailey and Margaret Sites, November 2010:
– (mp3) Lamont & Kaye Jones discussing Pleasant Green’s role within the civil rights movement
– (mp3) Lamont & Kaye Jones discussing public accommodations in Lexington
During the 1950s and 1960s, the church served as a meeting place for the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.), an organization that fought for the rights of African Americans. Julia Lewis served as the chairman of C.O.R.E. and was a member of Pleasant Green. Meetings of C.O.R.E., sit-ins, and other protests were planned, including the protest of segregation at The Kentucky Theatre. (Watch more about C.O.R.E. activities in Lexington – see the video of C.O.R.E. activist “Abby Marlatt – Living the Story” on the Kentucky Educational Television website.)
The youth movement was critical to the success of these protests, and there were many reasons that young adults would gather at Pleasant Green Baptist Church during this time:
– (mp3) Lamont & Kaye Jones discussing the importance of black churches as a social outlet for college students
Oral History Interview by Dawn Bailey,
Kay Jones and La Mont Jones Interview, November 29, 2010
(2 hours, 19 minutes)
Kay Frances and Reverend LaMont Jones of Lexington describe their different experiences at the University of Kentucky and the overt racism of UK professors in the sciences. They describe the history of Pleasant Green Baptist Church, the split in the early days with the followers of London Ferrell, and how the history of the church is being revived; details about the role of the church as a meeting place for Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) strategists as well as mass meetings of the African American community to discuss desegregation and civil rights issues.
Please cite as: Jones, Kay and LaMont. Interview by Dawn Bailey. Digital recording. November 29, 2010. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.