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A historic place of worship that has served as a pillar for Black spirituality, culture, and community in Chicago has been bestowed with a special honor from the city. Greater Union Baptist Church has received preliminary landmark status from the Chicago Landmarks Commission, WBBM reported.

Nestled in Chicago’s Near West Side neighborhood, the church has been a mainstay in the local community. It was constructed in 1886 by revered architect William Le Baron Jenney—best known for designing the first skyscraper—as the Church of the Redeemer. In 1928, it was acquired by a Black Baptist collective and has remained under their leadership for nearly a century.

Greater Union Baptist Church is a hallowed element of American history. The pulpit has served as a space where the needs of the Black community in Chicago were amplified, and the church has been at the forefront of social justice efforts, including raising funds to support the 16th Street Baptist Church after it was harrowingly attacked by a white supremacist in 1963.

Preliminary landmark status would protect its architectural elements, including its stained-glass windows and brick façade.

There has been a concerted effort to preserve historical Black churches throughout the country. Through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched a grant program designed to conserve historically Black places of worship dubbed Preserving Black Churches. Amongst some of the churches the organization has supported is Vernon AME Church in Tulsa, Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, and Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham.

“Black churches have stood at the center of the African American experience and are a living testament to the achievements and resiliency of generations in the face of a racialized and inequitable society,” Brent Leggs, who serves as Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, said in a statement. “Yet despite the central role that these historic houses of worship play in the fabric of Black communities, they face a myriad of challenges. Their preservation—like that of all Black heritage sites—has often been overlooked and vastly underfunded. A critical piece of our work is to increase investments in the preservation, management, and interpretation of historic Black churches—so that they can continue to serve as the epicenters of Black communities and American heritage.”


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