The History of the Michigan Street Baptist Church
The Michigan Street Baptist Church standing at 511 Michigan Street, Buffalo, NY was often the last stop on for fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad before crossing over to Canada. Built by African-american for African-Americans in 1845, the building stood as a beacon and safe haven for the community. It served as a place for ant-slavery and reform movements to meet. Today, the Church still possesses some remnants of those hiding places of the Underground Railroad. After the abolition of slavery, the Church remained central to the historical and cultural significance of Buffalo's African-American community.
At the turn of the century, two compelling community figures became associated with the Michigan Street Baptist and contributed greatly to the politicization of Buffalo's African-American community. The first was the Rev. Dr. J. Edward Nash (1868-1957)who became pastor of the Church in 1892 and remained there for 61 years during which time he was instrumental in founding the Buffalo Urban League and the local branch of the NAACP. In 1953. Potter Street, behind the Church was renamed Nash Street in his honor.
The second prominent figure associated with the Michigan Street Baptist Church was Mary B. Talbert, a neighbor and active parishioner. Her house (now demolished) was at 521 Michigan Avenue, two doors down from the Church. In 1905, W.E.B Du Bois and other prominent African-American leaders met at Mrs. Talbert's home and adopted the resolutions that led to the founding of the Niagara Movement. This was the seed that eventually became part of the Civil Rights Movement. By the third decade of the 20th century, the "Great Migration" and related factors had begun to transform northern African-American communities like that of Buffalo. By 1930, the African-American population of Buffalo had grown to more than 13,000 and the Church continued to serve the religious needs of the community.