Road trip: Augusta’s Springfield community

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Springfield_Baptist_GooMap

Image of Springfield Baptist Church, the heart of Springfield community, in downtown Augusta. Image from Google Maps streetview (which is why there’s a funny partly opaque parallelogram on the right half of the image).

Next time you’re in Augusta, take the time to go downtown and visit the Springfield community. Springfield community is just west of the original downtown Augusta.

According to the fine website dedicated to the history of this community, Springfield was

a free African American community established around the time of the Revolutionary War. The Springfield Community was not an officially recognized subdivision of Augusta, Georgia. Despite this, the neighborhood, roughly bounded by the Savannah River and Jones Street on the north and south and Ninth and Fifteenth streets to the east and west, became one of the few homes to free African Americans who escaped the bonds of slavery prior to the Civil War. Springfield began to evolve after the American Revolution when many escaped slaves sought refuge, eventually growing into a thriving neighborhood in northeastern Augusta. In the South, free African Americans congregated in urban communities because they offered the best opportunities for employment. Although it is difficult to draw a boundary around this community, especially for its early years, Springfield came to represent a center of African American life in Augusta, especially in the late nineteenth century as official attitudes and policies became more segregationist. Over time, the symbol of this community, and its anchor, was the Springfield Baptist Church, still located at Twelfth and Reynolds Streets in Augusta.

Also,

The

Springfield Baptist is the nation’s oldest continually operating African American church. The congregation was established shortly after the American Revolution, probably between 1787 and 1793….

Springfield Baptist Church’s own website notes that:

Springfield Baptist Church is of national significance because it is the oldest African-American church in the United States; because it is an example of the determination of African-Americans to be independent during the slavery era; because the Georgia Republican Party originated there; because Morehouse College, which has produced so many nationally prominent black leaders, was founded there; and finally because the Springfield Church stands today as proof that African-American’s too can look to history with pride in their achievements.

For more information on the web:

Springfield community website, developed by New South Associates of Stone Mountain and funded by by the City of Augusta and the Georgia Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration.

New Georgia Encyclopedia on Augusta

Wikipedia entry on Augusta

Website of the Springfield Baptist Church

New Georgia Encyclopedia on Springfield Baptist Church

For a lesson plan on Springfield community, click here.

Thanks to Jim Pomfret, Archaeologist with the Georgia Department of Transportation, for suggesting that this topic might be of interest to readers of the SGA’s website.

Where to find it