Historic Atlanta church demolished to make way for new football stadium

Congregants sold the church to the city for millions.

Friendship Baptist Church
Friendship Baptist Church

The oldest African-American Baptist church in Atlanta was demolished this week to make way for a new NFL stadium.

Friendship Baptist Church on Mitchell Street Southwest was destroyed Monday, and a new home for the Atlanta Falcons will be erected.

The church released a statement in September saying that the congregation voted "overwhelmingly" in favor of the city's $19.5 million offer, although only 100 church trustees participated in the vote. The church has about 500 members, according to its website.

Neighboring Mount Vernon Baptist Church also accepted a $14.5 million payment from the city. A $1 billion stadium will stand in place of the churches.

Friendship Baptist was established in 1866, just after the Civil War. Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College got their starts inside the church, and Friendship Baptist helped found nine other congregations in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Slaves were shipped to the church in boxcars.

The church initially wanted $24.5 million for the property, and rejected the city's first offer of $13.5 million. Civil Rights leader Juanita Abernathy, widow of Civil Rights hero Ralph Abernathy, said that money should not have been an object.

"I don't think [money] should even enter our decision-making. I really don't," she told NBC News in April. "It's a landmark. I think it should remain. It's been there for generations, and it needs to be there for generations to come... because that's our history.

"That's who we are."

However, a Change.org petition to save the church received less than 100 signatures.

One church member said that the new stadium is what the city needs.

"I don't think it's a trade-off situation," Pearl Logan told NBC. "I think it's accommodating what Atlanta needs."

Other members agreed.

"My heart said 'no,' but you've got progress," Larry Dozier said. "And progress is going to prevail no matter what."

Services will be held at Morehouse College's Ray Charles Auditorium until a new church, two blocks away, is built. The interim pastor is Rev. Dr. Emmanuel McCall.

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