Exhibit 4

Liberty Baptist – A church for the freedmen

The neighborhood church

Liberty Baptist ChurchLiberty Baptist Church, established in 1869, is typical of many Charles City County churches founded by freedmen after the Civil War. Like many other churches it was organized under the sponsorship of Elam Baptist Church. Most of the worshippers at these new churches did not own horses, mules or carts. Thus, every three or four miles, the limit of comfortable walking distance, a church was likely to be established. Photo courtesy John Bragg.


Services were not held in each church every Sunday. Instead, they often met only once a month for worship and once a month for conference, the church’s business meeting. This was often because churches in a neighborhood might share a pastor who preached a different Sunday at each church. John Woodley, seated outside Mt. Sterling Baptist Church courtesy Charles City County Richard M. Bowman Center for Local History.


Services did not follow any set schedule. The length of the service might depend on how long it took a sinner at the mourner’s bench to find his or her way to conversion. Deacons and their wives sat at the front of the church and often participated in the service by offering prayers and passing the collection plate. Doris Ulman, “The Mourner’s Bench,” ca 1924-30.


Church budgets were modest, not allowing the purchase of hymnals; in any event most of the members of the congregation were illiterate. Thus, music often was supplied by a song leader who would sing out a line of a hymn for the congregation to repeat. Time was kept by the tapping of feet, and the singing was referred to as “patty foot” singing. Liberty has kept alive this tradition by hosting patty foot singing services. Photo courtesy Judy Ledbetter.


next: Services and rituals