Rev. Robert L. Bradby and Second Baptist Church
Second Baptist Church was formed in 1836 by thirteen liberated African Americans who broke away from the racist discrimination at First Baptist. Second Baptist became a station for the Underground Railroad and worked with abolitionists like Sojourner Truth, George de Baptiste, Frederick Douglass (Detroit Historical Society), and Rev. William C. Monroe, who was one of its preachers (Williams, 44). It also built Detroit’s first school for Black children in 1839 (Williams, 44).
In the 1910s, the Ontario-born Rev. Bradby’s marriage of progressivism and Baptist Christianity led him to create educational, social service, and self-help programs for Black migrants and Detroiters during the Great Migration (Harmon, 4).
Furthermore, his ministries, driven substantially by women, formed connections with Henry Ford to secure Black workers a place in the auto industry (Harmon, 5). A 19 November 1927 article from The Pittsburgh Courier credits the church under his leadership with helping found the Liberty Life Insurance Company and several grocery stores, as well as collaborating with the Detroit Urban League and standing up to Detroit police brutality during the economic depression of 1921. Ten years later, the Courier noted that Bradby directed homes to be built for young women on St. Aubin and Antietam streets.
Bradby continued to fight for reforms until he died in his private study (New York Amsterdam News) on June 3, 1946 (Detroit Historical Society). His son, Robert Jr., succeeded him and became president of the NAACP’s Detroit Branch on December 15, 1947, expressing his desire “to follow through on the investigation of the police department and the school system, especially with regard to the promotion and placement of colored teachers” (Michigan Chronicle pp. 1, 23).