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History

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Prayers By Faith Ministry partners with UFHP to begin church rehabilitation

Old Mount

Carmel Church

is built

Black Thursday sit-in

Rev. Wright begins church leadership

NAACP meetings are hosted at the church

Willie G. Mayberry purchases the Old Mount Carmel building

Church is added to the National Register of Historic Places

1944
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1944

In 1944, Old Mount Carmel Church was built in the Pleasant Street District of Gainesville, Florida. The building's Late Gothic Revival architecture hosts stained glass windows, white doors, and original brick. Although it began just as a place of worship, the church would soon evolve into a significant role in Alachua County's journey to desegregation, civil rights, and inclusion.  

1962

In 1962, Reverend Dr. Thomas A. Wright moved from St. Augustine, Florida to begin a new congregation at Mount Carmel Church. He remained a pastor for over 44 years, up until his retirement in 2006. Throughout his time in Gainesville, Rev. Wright demonstrated Civil Rights leadership, educational opportunities, and community service. His work prompted numerous changes throughout the local area, including the 1964 lawsuit against Alachua County School Board that resulted in the desegregation of public schools.

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"We need to know the importance of a sacred space. This is a very significant space in the Black community."

— Pastor Gerard Duncan

 
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1966

In 1966, Rev. Wright began serving as president of Alachua County's NAACP chapter. He worked diligently throughout the 1960s and 1970s to desegregate the Gainesville area while simultaneously developing Old Mount Carmel Church into a safe space. Numerous NAACP meetings were held within the church sanctuary. Rev. Wright eventually gave his last sermon at Old Mount Carmel Church in 2013, after the church received it's historic state of Florida marker. 

"He [Rev. Wright] wanted the building to represent unity."

— Pastor Gerard Duncan

1971

On April 15th, 1971, the University of Florida's Black Student Union organized a list of six demands to present to UF President Stephen O'Connell. After O'Connell refused to meet or acknowledge demands for equality and desegregation, hundreds of students marched in protest to UF's Tigert Hall. These concerned students came from everywhere -- including the Historic Pleasant Street District. The march resulted in 60 students being arrested, hundreds being gassed, and three policemen injured. Weeks later, over 100 Black students unenrolled from the University.

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"It seemed like such a small spark, but before the day was over, the whole university was engulfed in the flames."

— The Florida Alligator, April 1971

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1987

In 1987, Rev. Wright moved his congregation to a new location. Rev. Dr. Willie G. Mayberry purchased the Mount Carmel Church building, which would then be nicknamed as "Old" Mount Carmel. Rev. Mayberry's congregation, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, immediately began holding services and meetings. The congregation worked diligently to prevent the building from being condemned. This would prove to be challenging; at one point, Rev. Mayberry recalled receiving death threats from the public as he cleaned the building.

 

"I always want the facility to remain historical to the community."

— Rev. Mayberry

2019

In 2019, the Prayers By Faith Ministry began collaborating with the University of Florida's Historic Preservation program to launch Old Mount Carmel's restoration. Gerard Duncan, pastor of Prayers By Faith Ministry, headlined the project. With the guidance of Rev. Wright and Rev. Mayberry, Duncan decided to carry out the mission to let the community know that their story is heard, and we are still working to create a more inclusive history.

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"I want to turn it into a civil rights museum detailing the past and present civil rights leaders, UF faculty members and NAACP members. Another floor will house the Street Social Justice Cultural Arts Center."

— Pastor Gerard Duncan

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2021

Following Old Mount Carmel's designation as a historic site by the state of Florida, the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021. The property was recognized for it's cultural and architectural significance. In addition to Pastor Duncan and Prayers By Faith Ministry, many UF figures helped develop the nomination package. This included collaborations with the University of Florida's Historic Preservation Program, Adjunct Assistant Professor Linda Stevenson and Doctoral Researcher Kristine Ziedina. The City of Gainesville was awarded $50,000 to help fund the digital documentation, oral histories, rehabilitation plan and conditions assessments that will help rebuild the church.