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Research Group at Mercer to Discuss Nation's First Black Ordained Preacher
June 7, 2006

Judith Lunsford
(678) 547-6425

 ATLANTA - The George Liele Research Group will arrive on Mercer University’s Atlanta campus today to spend two days reviewing and discussing research on the first African-American officially recognized and ordained as a preacher. The group of 16 scholars, historians and missionaries from around the world are preparing a book entitled “George Liele: The First African-American Theologian.”

“It is significant that we are meeting on Mercer’s Atlanta campus since it is the future home of the American Baptist Historical Society, which is a major supporter of this project,” said David T. Shannon, Ph.D., a founder and executive director of the George Liele Research Group.

Last fall, the American Baptist Historical Society (ABHS), the world’s oldest Baptist historical organization, announced it will consolidate and relocate its vast archival collections from Rochester, N.Y., and Valley Forge, Pa., to the Mercer's Atlanta campus in 2008. Founded in 1853, ABHS collects, preserves and shares Baptist history with a wide variety of publics. The Society holds the largest and most diverse collection of Baptist material in the world.

ABHS Executive Director Dr. Deborah Bingham Van Broekhoven is a member of the George Liele Research Group. Two of the reasons the collection is relocating to Atlanta are the opportunity to consolidate the vast collections and the easy accessibility of the location. The George Liele Research Group is the first of many research initiatives that ABHS expects to serve when it moves to Georgia.

George Liele (1750-1828) grew up a slave, but his conversion when he was 23 was so transforming, his master freed him so he could preach the gospel. Historical accounts credit his evangelism for the founding of Silver Bluff Baptist Church in South Carolina, recognized to be the nation’s first black Baptist church, by one of his followers. In 1783, Liele moved to Jamaica where he became a pioneering missionary to the slaves, who had never seen a black preacher until his arrival. Because Liele and his converts played a leading role in the struggle for emancipation in Jamaica, Liele is honored as one of the country's founding fathers.

About Mercer University:

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit