Ada Minor-Pair, surrounded by artwork at the Victorian Teal Gallery owned by her son Mannie in DeTonti Square, calls the 400-page book her “life’s work.” The widow of a preacher and matriarch of a deeply reverent family, Minor-Pair and Mannie — formally artist Herbert E. Pair III — recently published “The History of the Black Baptist Churches of Mobile County Alabama,” an illustrated reference of the 141 black baptist churches between Bayou la Batre and Citronelle.
In addition to providing never-before-seen photographs, background information, phone numbers and pastor listings for each, the book also includes a broader history about the black Baptist community in Mobile, not limited to its role in civil rights, education, music and worship.
“It goes back to slavery, when Mobile was a Catholic city and no other church was allowed within eight miles of downtown,” Minor-Pair said. “That’s how the Eight Mile area got its name.”
Indeed, the book includes church minutes of black services and incorporation documents of black churches in Mobile dating back to the 1830s. It starts with the history of how the denomination came to America and Alabama and eventually trickled to Mobile County.
When Baptist churches became more common, they also became a safe space for racial reconciliation. During slavery, [black people] were not allowed to assemble for service without five members of the white church present,” she said. “But eventually that changed. Church became the first place black and white people could assemble without violating segregation laws.”
In addition to being married to pastor Herbert Pair Jr., Minor-Pair also spent 40 years as a secretary for the Mobile Baptist Association. Over the past 10 years, she pored over the archives there, the Mobile County Probate Court and elsewhere gathering information for the book.
“I wanted names and specific dates,” she said, recalling when she found a list of slaveowners and their slaves among other documents. “It was so amazing and enchanting for me to see that.”
Local historian John Sledge called the book “an absorbing and useful volume … to peruse its pages is to come to a profound appreciation for this faith community’s immense contributions to local history.”
The book is $60 and available at the gallery at 357 Congress St. Book signing events begin this Sunday, Feb. 26, from 3-5 p.m. at the gallery. On Wednesday, March 1, from 4-6 p.m. the Pairs will sign books at First Baptist Church of Mobile and Saturday, March 4, from 4-6 p.m. they will be at the Sunlight District Auditorium in Prichard. For more information call 251-432-9022.