A History of Black Churches in Omaha

Goodwill Spring Musical Choirs, North Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha's historic Black churches
Omaha’s historic Black churches include Cleaves Temple CME; Mt Nebo Baptist; Zion Baptist; Mt Moriah Baptist; Salem Baptist; St John AME; Hillside Presbyterian; Pilgrim Baptist; Bethel AME.

Omaha’s tradition of Black churches started less than a decade after the founding of the city in 1865. With de facto segregation the norm in the city by then, African Americans were denied seats in white churches. Not to be without a spiritual home, the city’s pioneer Blacks founded their own places of worship. Here is an introduction to Omaha’s historic Black churches.

The population of African Americans in Omaha has grown with the city throughout the years. Research by Tom Jack in the early 1990s showed that the population of Black churches in proportion to the rest of the city’s church population has remained consistently higher since the 1910s.

Throughout the years, Black churches in Omaha collaborated and convened with and without each other. Working within and across denominations, they have grown the faith, fostered social change, advocated for civil rights and transformed the lives of individuals and the whole community.

The first African American churches in Omaha were St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1865 and described below; the African Baptist Church, founded in 1874, and; Zion Baptist Church, founded in 1884 and described below.

Research from 2000 showed, “116 predominantly black congregations in Omaha represent twenty-five percent of the churches in a city where African-Americans comprise thirteen percent of the overall population.” That makes the history of Black churches in Omaha very important to the city, and even more important to North Omaha. Discover some of that history below.


St. John AME Church

St. John's AME Church, North Omaha
This is St. John’s AME Church as it appeared in the 1980s.

Saint John AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church is located at 2402 North 22nd Street. Founded in 1865, it is the oldest Black church in Nebraska. Learn more from “A History of St. John’s AME Church” here »


St. Phillip Episcopal Church

St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church, North Omaha, Nebraska
St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church around 1910.

Saint Phillip the Deacon Episcopal Church was opened in 1877, and permanently moved to 1121 North 21st Street in 1891. After moving to Binney Street in the 1940s, the congregation merged with a white congregation to become the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection. Learn more from “A History of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church” here »


Zion Baptist Church

Zion Baptist Church, 2215 Grant Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
Zion Baptist Church in 1956

Zion Baptist Church is located at 2215 Grant Street in the Near North Side neighborhood. Established in 1884, its current building was built in 1891. For details, read “A History of Zion Baptist Church” »


Hope Lutheran Church

Hope Lutheran Church, North Omaha, Nebraska
Hope Lutheran Church in 2015.
  • Name: Hope Lutheran Church
  • Address: 2721 North 30th Street
  • Founded: 1920s
  • Open: Yes

Hope Lutheran Church was opened in the 1920s as a Black Lutheran church.

In 1946, congregation bought the former Pella Lutheran church at 2723 North 30th Street in the Omaha View neighborhood, and continues there currently.

HopeLutheran School was a two-room school opened in 1950 by Hope Lutheran Church at 2720 Wirt Street. A grade school serving kindergarten through eighth grades, it was a new building. In addition to the classrooms, there was an office, private instruction room, an auditorium and recreation room, and was designed to serve 75 students. The school closed in 1963, and was demolished with the construction of the North Freeway.

Today, Hope Lutheran Church is one of the oldest Black churches in Omaha.


Mt. Moriah Baptist Church

This is Mount Moriah Baptist Church in the early 2010s. The front entrance is different now.
This is Mount Moriah Baptist Church in the early 2010s. The front entrance is different now.

Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, founded in 1886, was soon renamed Mount Moriah Baptist Church. You can learn about the church, which the oldest African American Baptist church in Omaha, in A History of Mount Moriah Baptist Church.


Hillside Congregational Church

  • Name: Hillside Congregational Church
  • Address:
  • Founded: 1886
  • Open: Closed

Hillside Presbyterian Church was founded in 1886 and is closed now.

The Hillside Congregational Church was built this year at North 30th and Ohio Streets in the Bedford Place neighborhood. One of the oldest Black churches in Omaha, it was merged with Central Park Congregational.

Hillside Congregational Church’s building was sold to Hillside Presbyterian in 1926, and it burned down in 1937.

The church does not continue today.


St. Benedict Catholic Church

St. Benedict's parish church and school at 24th and Grant in North Omaha, Nebraska.
St. Benedict’s School (1923) and the much older St. Benedict’s Church at North 25th and Grant in the Long School neighborhood.

Saint Benedict the Moor Catholic Church is located at 2423 Grant Street. Founded in 1918, you can learn more about the parish in A History of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Parish »


Pilgrim Baptist Church

Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1931.
Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1931.
  • Name: Pilgrim Baptist Church
  • Address: 2501 Hamilton St.
  • Founded: 1917
  • Open: Yes

Pilgrim Baptist Church was established in 1917 in a storefront on North 24th Street. In 1920, they bought the former Calvary Baptist Church at 2501 Hamilton Street in the Near North Side and have remained there since.

A fire almost destroyed the church in 1948. After reconstruction, the church has remained there since. They’ve added onto the church several times since. Continuing its building projects for the church and the greater community, in the early 2000s Pilgrim built senior housing in the area in cooperation with the OEDC.

Pilgrim Baptist Church is among the oldest Black churches in Omaha, and continues today.


Clair Memorial UM Church

Clair Memorial UM Church, North Omaha, Nebraska
A mural showing the history of Clair Memorial UM Church.
  • Name: Clair Memorial United Methodist Church
  • Address: 5544 Ames Ave;
  • Founded: 1913
  • Open: Yes

Clair Memorial UMC opened as Grove Memorial Methodist Church in 1913. In 1927, it was renamed Clair Memorial after a local Methodist bishop. Their first church was at North 22nd and Seward Street. In 1927, the church moved to North 22nd and Miami Streets near the present-day 24th and Lake Historic District and was renamed Clair Memorial. In 1956, Clair moved to 2443 Evans Street in the Kountze Place neighborhood, and stayed there for almost 30 years. In 1983, Clair Memorial United Methodist Church moved to 5544 Ames Avenue in the Fontenelle View neighborhood, and continues operating there now.

The church has led the North Omaha community in countless social justice, civil rights and social activities. It is one of the oldest Black churches in Omaha today.


Mt. Nebo Baptist Church

Mount Nebo Baptist Church - North Omaha History
Mount Nebo Baptist Church in 2015.
  • Name: Mount Nebo Baptist congregation
  • Address: 5501 N. 50th St.
  • Founded: 1921
  • Open: Yes

The Mount Nebo Baptist congregation was formed in 1921. In 1922, the church moved to North 26th and Franklin Streets. In 1923, they Freestone Primitive Baptist Church on 26th and Caldwell Street hosted the congregation, and in 1926, they moved to the Spring Hill Baptist Church at North 33rd and Emmet Streets. The congregations merged, but their church destroyed by a fire in 1933.

That year, they moved to 3211 Pinkney Street, and in 1986, they moved to the former Immanuel Baptist Church at 5501 North 50th Street.

Mt. Nebo Baptist Church is of the oldest Black churches in Omaha, it continues today.


Bethel AME Church

Bethel AME Church, North Omaha, Nebraska
Bethel AME Church in 2015

Bethel AME Church moved into 2428 Franklin Street in 1925. Founded a few years earlier, today it is one of the oldest Black churches in Omaha. Learn more from “A History of Bethel AME Church” here »


Salem Baptist Church

Salem Baptist Church, 2120 Seward Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the former Salem Baptist Church at 2120 Seward Street in 1928.
  • Name: Salem Baptist Church
  • Address: 3131 Lake St.
  • Founded: 1922
  • Open: Yes

Salem Baptist Church was founded at North 26th and Franklin Streets in 1922, and was located at 2120 Seward Street by 1926. A new church was built at 2741 Decatur Street in 1936, and in 1971 the church moved to 3336 Lake Street.

Rev. J. C. Wade began pastoring at Salem Baptist Church in 1944. For the next 40 years, he led the church. Building a massive congregation and securing beautiful new facilities for the church, he was highly active throughout the community and was recognized nationally for his efforts. He was also involved in the national NAACP and national Baptist activities. He died on August 30, 1999.

In 2000, the congregation built a new church at 3131 Lake Street on the site of the former Hilltop Public Housing Project. Today, Salem also operates a community food pantry at 2205 North 24th Street .

Salem Baptist Church continues operating, and is one of the oldest Black churches in Omaha.


Cleaves Temple CME Church

Cleaves Temple CME Church, North Omaha, Nebraska
Cleaves Temple CME Church in 2015.

Founded in 1920, the Cleaves Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church continues today in their historic building at 2431 Decatur Street. You can learn more in “A History of Cleaves Temple CME” here »


Hillside Presbyterian Church

This is Hillside Presbyterian Church in 1931.
This is Hillside Presbyterian Church in 1931.

Hillside Presbyterian Church was at 2513 North 30th Street, then moved to North 28th and Miami Streets. Founded in 1920, you can learn more about it’s past in “A History of Hillside Presbyterian Church” here »


New Bethel Church of God in Christ

New Bethel COGIC

New Bethel Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is located at 1710 North 25th Street in the Near North Side neighborhood. Learn more from “A History of New Bethel COGIC” here »


Mount Calvary Community Church

Mt Calvary Community Church, 2426 Grant Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is Mt Calvary Community Church, built at 2426 Grant Street in 1937.

Mt. Calvary Community Church is located at 5112 Ames Avenue. Founded in 1933, the original building was at 2426 Grant Street in the Near North Side neighborhood. Learn more in “A History of Mt. Calvary Community Church” here »


Other Historic Black Churches in Omaha

One of the original Black churches in Omaha was called the African Baptist Church, which was founded in 1874. It stopped existing by the 1930s.

Other historic Black churches in Omaha include:

  • Bethlehem Baptist at 2118 Browne St
  • Freestone Primitive Baptist Church at 4023 Ames Ave
  • Morning Star Baptist at 2019 Burdette St
  • New Hope Baptist at 1411 North 30th St
  • Paradise Baptist at 2124 Lothrop St
  • Pleasant Green Baptist at 5555 Larimore Ave
  • St. Paul Baptist at 1809 N 23rd St
  • Bethe Temple Seventh Day Adventist at 3725 Ames Ave
  • Church of the Living God at 2029 Binney St
  • St. Mark Baptist at 3616 Spaulding St

The Union Services

Goodwill Spring Musical Choirs, North Omaha, Nebraska
The Goodwill Spring Musical Choirs in 1938. Founded by L. L. McVay, the spring extravaganza was interdenominational, and was presented at the Omaha Civic Auditorium. Methodists and Baptists from 10 churches participated.

According to Tom Jack, in 1938, a small group of Methodist ministers decided to hold annual inter-denominational services among Omaha’s Black churches. The Union Services happened Sunday evenings from January to April through the late 1950s.

St. John AME, Bethel AME, Cleaves Temple CME, Clair Chapel Methodist Episcopal, Pilgrim Baptist, Zion Baptist and Hillside Presbyterian were the primary congregations involved. Attendance at these special events ranged from 700 to 1,000 people at every service, and were occasionally held at the Orpheum. Mostly though, they were held at the larger churches involved, including Clair, Zion and St. John.

By the end of their joint services, the individual congregations were wrestling with attracting members to their own Sunday services. However, the spirit of the Union Services has become a metaphor for Black churches in Omaha, and for North Omaha in general: When one succeeds, everyone succeeds. When one is challenged, everyone is challenged.


You Might Like…

Elsewhere

  • Tom Jack. (1992) Gospel Music in Omaha, Nebraska: A History. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Gospel Music Omaha website

BONUS PICS!

An early ad for the segregated Grove Methodist Church at 22nd and Seward Streets in North Omaha, Nebraska
An early ad for the segregated Grove Methodist Church at 22nd and Seward Streets in North Omaha, Nebraska, founded in 1913. Grove became Clair United Methodist Church, and is still open today at 55th and Ames.
Zion Baptist Church, 2215 Grant Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha’s Zion Baptist Church at 2215 Grant Street was established in 1884.
Hillside Presbyterian Church, N. 30th and Ohio Streets, North Omaha, Nebraska
In March 1947, a fire gutted the Hillside Presbyterian Church, a historically black church at North 30th and Ohio Streets.

Published by Adam Fletcher

An internationally recognized expert in youth engagement, Adam leads the Freechild Institute and SoundOut. He is also the editor NorthOmahaHistory.com; the author of Student Voice Revolution and twelve other books; and the host of the North Omaha History Podcast.

8 thoughts on “A History of Black Churches in Omaha

    1. excellent JOB ! I thought the church I grew up in St. Mark Baptist would be mentioned. when I was born in 1955 it was located at 27th and lake street. under pastor Mark Marion. the church was relocated to 36th Spaulding to make way for the north freeway. where it is still in operation.

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  1. I didn’t see The Church of God mention. My grandparents were minsters there was on 24th Street between Blondo and Patrick Ave. I don’t know exactly when my grandfather started as pastor there, he died in September of 1975, grandmother in December of 1978. My siblings and I would attend there as children, we did Christmas and Easter programs. The old church was torn down about six years ago, a new had been built. Their names were Ernest Britt Sr. & Alice Ervin Britt

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  2. Pleasant Green Bapt, on 20th St., Sacred Heart on Binney, can’t remember the name, church 22nd binney, the old Primm chapel on 18th spencer I think, Immuanel on Lake nr the interstate. That church broke off of st. John ame years ago, church on 23rd Lothrup across the st christ child were missed. Christ Child has been a strong staple in the community. Both of my sons went there and my youngest worked there in high school during the summer.

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