Andrew Bryan was born in 1737 on a plantation in Goose Creek, South Carolina, which is near Charleston. Born a slave, he served as a coachman and body servant for Jonathan Bryan. Jonathan Bryan, his brother Hugh and a number of other planters had been arrested for preaching to slaves. They had been part of a group of plantation owners who had been trying to evangelize to the slaves.
Andrew become a Baptist in 1782, converted by George Liele, who was the first black Georgian Baptist. Both Andrew and his wife, Hannah, were baptized by Liele. Andrew continued to preach to small groups near Savannah even after Liele left the area.
Andrew was supported by the planters, and he wound up building a shack for his flock, which even included a handful of white people. Still, there were a number of masters who refused to allow their slaves to be baptized. And, many Georgian masters forbade their slaves to listen to sermons by Andrew due to fears of uprisings and desertions. Many of the slaves who attended the sermons were imprisoned, harassed and whipped. Even Andrew was imprisoned. When released, Bryan’s masters allowed him to continue preaching on a barn on the property.
In 1788, a white minister by the name of Abraham Marshall officially recognized Andrew’s small flock. He baptized more than 40 members of the group and ordained Andrew. After Jonathan Bryan died, Andrew Bryan purchased his freedom and raised money to erect a church in Savannah, Georgia, in 1794.
Starting with 575 members in 1788, the First African Baptist Church grew to nearly 2,800 members in 1831. By 1800, there were two satellite churches.
Andrew died on October 12, 1812, and he is buried in Savannah’s Laurel Grove Cemetery.
Historical Marker Inscription
Andrew Bryan was born at Goose Creek, S.C. about 1716. He came to Savannah as a slave and here he was baptized by the Negro missionary, the Reverend George Leile, in 1781. Leile evacuated with the British in 1782 at the close of the American Revolution and Bryan took up his work. He preached at Yamacraw and Brampton Plantation. On January 20, 1788, the Reverend Abraham Marshall (White) and the Reverend Jessie Peter (Colored) ordained Andrew Bryan and certified the congregation at a Brampton barn as the Ethiopian Church of Jesus Christ.
The Reverend Bryan moved from place to place with his congregation and was even imprisoned and whipped for preaching during a time when whites feared any slave gathering as a focus for rebellion. He persevered and finally bought his and his family’s freedom and purchased this lot for his Church. Andrew Bryan pastored until his death, October 6, 1812. He is buried in Savannah’s Laurel Grove Cemetery.
The marker lies within the Yamacraw Square Park, which is located across the street from the First Bryan Baptist Church
565 West Bryan Street, Savannah, GA 31401
N 32° 04.937 W 081° 05.934