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Tabernacle Baptist Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2021 Cohort

Tabernacle Baptist Church

Beaufort, South Carolina

Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort, South Carolina, is a beacon of liberation and a cornerstone of the Reconstruction Era in the South.

Tabernacle Baptist Church by Tiffany Tolbert, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Tabernacle Baptist Church by Tiffany Tolbert, National Trust for Historic Preservation
2021 Cohort

Tabernacle Baptist Church

Beaufort, South Carolina

Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort, South Carolina, is a beacon of liberation and a cornerstone of the Reconstruction Era in the South.

Constructed in 1811 using the labor of enslaved persons, the timber-frame church originally served as the site of lectures and evening worship for the Baptist Church of Beaufort, a racially-mixed congregation whose main church was and remains located nearby. After Union troops occupied Beaufort in 1861, the church transitioned into a religious, cultural, and political center for Black Beaufortonians. Two years later, the city’s first African American congregation formed, purchasing the Tabernacle Baptist Church building in 1867 and adding a tower and steeple in 1873. Robert Smalls, an African American man born enslaved in Beaufort who went on to become a Reconstruction Era U.S. Congressman, businessman, and publisher, is buried at Tabernacle Baptist. In addition, the congregation is working to erect a monument to Harriet Tubman on church grounds, commemorating her role in freeing hundreds of enslaved people in Beaufort.

Tabernacle Baptist continues to support the Black community of Beaufort and spread awareness about the history of the Reconstruction Era. Through the Elders Circle, the church hosts participants from regional organizations and religious groups for monthly lunches and presentations. The congregation feeds food-insecure community members and supports the arts. Tabernacle Baptist is part of the National Park Service’s Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, established in 2017 to share stories about an overlooked part of American history. As part of the national park, Tabernacle Baptist has served as the site of public meetings, adult and youth programs, films, and advocacy for locals and visitors.

Through a National Fund grant of $87,500 with equal matching funds raised by the congregation, Tabernacle Baptist will complete critical repairs and restoration, from the foundation piers to the roof. According to the congregation, this work will help the church “well-serve the religious and cultural lives of future generations, as it has those of the past.”

Tabernacle Baptist Church by Bob Sofaly

Tabernacle Baptist Church by Tiffany Tolbert, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

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