Historical marker to be dedicated to 1868 Baptist church

FALMOUTH, Va. (AP) — A state historical marker will be dedicated to a Baptist church established in 1868 by 27 African-Americans who selected a former slave as the church’s first pastor.

The marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated Saturday at the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church in Falmouth. The event is open to the public.

The church’s first pastor, the Rev. York Johnson, founded a mutual aid society for the black community. The church also established a cemetery, which enabled African-Americans to exercise newfound autonomy over burial practices and funerals.

The Stafford County branch of the NAACP was founded at the church where community members met to plan strategies for the desegregation of local public schools.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program began in 1927.

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