Rare Footage: Hundreds Gather at a 1920s African-American Baptism

Part four of a four-part series from the film archive of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Sept. 16, 2016 - The practice of communal outdoor baptism was—and in some cases still is—a central community event among both black and white evangelical churches in America. This home movie footage from Oklahoma, filmed in the mid-1920s by Reverend S. S. Jones, a minister and businessman who lived in the region, provides a penetrating view into the spiritual lives of people in the state’s many booming African-American towns. Rev. Jones had deep connections to the lives of those gathered around the water for the event, allowing him to record up close an event that some of the congregants may have remembered as among their lives’ most important moments.

Rev. S. S. Jones Home Movie Collection
2011.79.1-9
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Gift of Naomi Long Madgett