A new $2.5 million museum honoring black civic leaders from the 1880s to 1920s opened Thursday inside the former presbytery of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
A ribbon cutting for the Wallace A. Rayfield Museum and the renovated Rectory at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was held Thursday after the annual memorial celebration honoring the victims of the 1963 bombing at the church that killed four girls. National television and radio evangelist Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, spoke at the memorial.
Evans helped lay a wreath at the site where the bomb exploded on September 15, 1963 at 10:22 a.m. during Sunday school time. Four girls were killed: Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.
The presbytery, built in 1914, houses the offices of the church, which have been moved upstairs. The lower portion of the building now features exhibits honoring Wallace A. Rayfield, the architect who designed the 16th Street Baptist Church which was built in 1911. Other honorees include the former Baptist pastor of 16th Street William R. Pettiford, who founded the Alabama Penny Savings Bank. who offered business and real estate loans to blacks during Reconstruction, and Thomas C. Windham, a contractor and church administrator who oversaw the building of the church.
About 80% of the museum’s funding came from federal grants, including the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“The Parsonage represents building the black community when most lacked the courage to stand up,” said Jefferson County Commissioner LaShunda Scales, who said the commission awarded $125,000 in funding. dollars to the museum and planned to donate another $25,000 to cover the cost. of finishes. Private donors included Amazon Inc.
Ted Debro, chairman of the trustees of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, said the museum will be open to the public beginning Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will be included in the $10 historical tours of the church.
See also: Tony Evans speaks at the 16th Street Baptist Church memorial honoring the victims of the 1963 bombing
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