The Rev. Al Sharpton, MSNBC host and civil rights leader, has been tapped as the keynote speaker at First Baptist Church of Hampton’s 150th anniversary celebration this week.
The church was founded in October 1863, the same year President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. So many former slaves were among the church’s first members, said Rev. Dr. Richard Wills, the church’s current pastor, who will celebrate his seventh year at the helm in November. The church started in the balcony of Hampton Baptist Church and moved to its current location on North King Street in 1868, according to church leaders.
“Historically, it’s just a poignant moment for the church and the city of Hampton as it relates to our nation,” Wills said.
On Saturday, the church will host an anniversary banquet at the Hampton Roads Convention Center at 6:30 p.m., featuring Sharpton. Sunday, the Rev. Dr. Brian K. Blount, president of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, will speak at First Baptist’s 10 a.m. worship service.