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Pilgrim Baptist Church Records

Identifier: HQBCA-030


This collection primarily contains photographic materials relating to event held at or by the members of Pilgrim Baptist Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


  • circa 1890-2000

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is completely digital.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and obtain all necessary permissions and determining the nature of any liabilities prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

“The signal aspects of African American culture were planted, watered, given light, and nurtured in the Black Church, out of reach and away from the watchful eyes of those who would choke the life out of it[…] The Black Church was the cultural cauldron that Black people created to combat a system designed in every way to crush their spirit.” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song," Forward (2020).

In 1863 a group of Black migrants from Missouri traveled North along the Mississippi River to Saint Paul, Minnesota in search of a better life. Among them was a man, Reverend Robert Thomas Hickman, who was born into bondage in Boone County, Missouri. Upon his arrival in Saint Paul with the rest of his brethren—his fellow pilgrims—they began to seek a place of worship. After years of holding prayer groups in their homes, they succeeded in renting the lodge room of the God of Temples in the Concert Hall Building on Third Street. On November 15, 1866, Rev. Robert Thomas Hickman and others formally organized Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Between 1866 and 1928, Pilgrim Baptist Church became a nexus point for the Black community in Saint Paul. The Ladies Aid Society, founded within Pilgrim Baptist Church, oriented themselves to the task of serving the needs of women and sisterhood in the Church and community. The Sterling Club along with the St. Paul chapters of the Urban League and the N.A.A.C.P were also organized at Pilgrim Baptist Church, between 1914 and 1918. In 1928, Pilgrim Baptist Church moved to its current location at 732 Central Ave W, continuing to serve in Saint Paul from within the Rondo Neighborhood, an area that was predominately Black. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Pilgrim Baptist Church had become a rallying point for civic affairs and engagement. The Reverend Doctors Lee Ward Harris and Floyd Massey Jr., both served on the board of Hallie Q. Brown Community House (later Hallie Q. Brown Community Center), as well as several other Black oriented organizations while also leading the congregation. By the early 1950s, membership of the church had expanded to over 1000 members and offered participation in an array of educational opportunities, as well as social and religious clubs.

Due to the destruction of homes and businesses within the Rondo Neighborhood to make way for Interstate Highway 94, membership and participation in activities led by Pilgrim Baptist Church would fluctuate between the 1960s to the 1980s. Despite these fluctuations, the Church would continue to receive many notable visitors, such as United Sates Congresswoman Betty McCollum and United States President Barack Obama. As of 2023, Rev. Dr. Charles L. Gill, Jr., currently serves as the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church, since 2004.


300 Photographic Prints

500 Photographic Slides

Language of Materials



This collection consists of 15 letter-size boxes, 2 clamshell boxes and 12 flate file folders, divided into 5 series:

Series I: Administrative Records

Series II: Photographic Slides

Series III: Other Photographic Materials


Hallie Q. Brown Community Center. "Collection Overview: Pilgrim Baptist Church Records". Hallie Q. Brown Community Archives.

Physical Description

Condition of materials is varied.

Pilgrim Baptist Church Records
Under Revision
Created and described by Kayla T. Jackson, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
This finding aid was made possible with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Archives Repository

270 N. Kent Street
Saint Paul MN 55102 USA