Warren church remains safe place, pillar of black community

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A church is often the center of its community.

In Trumbull County, Second Baptist Church has been around for more than a century. In fact, it’s the oldest black Baptist Church in the county. 

The church in Warren was founded in 1916 and was built by former slaves.

“Most of the residents came from down south,” said Pastor Todd Johnson. 

Black families looking to escape the Jim Crow laws of the south found a home in Second Baptist.

“Many of our families come here from Mississippi, Louisiana,” Johnson said. 

Agnes Bryant’s family left Georgia in 1938 to start a new life in Warren.

“My aunt was an usher at this church,” she said. 

Her whole family attended, escaping the physical laws of Jim Crow.

Warren didn’t have signs saying “For colored” or “For whites,” but Bryan said there was still racial segregation here. 

“There’s a pizza shop right across the street. Now the white kids could go, but we weren’t allowed over there,” she recalled. 

Bryant and many other black families knew only one place where they wouldn’t feel second class — the church. 

“You’re instantly able to connect with families who look like you, who’ve had the same experiences you’ve had,” Johnson said. 

That made Second Baptist a pillar of the black community. Even famous Civil Rights leaders stopped by.

“We had Martin Luther King, Sr. here at our church,” Bryant said. 

Mahalia Jackson, a famous gospel singer, sang for their benefit concert

“So we stand in the legacy of black history in Trumbull County, not just being the first black Baptist church in Trumbull County but always being involved and influential,” Johnson said. 

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