Honoring Mount Zion Baptist Church as a Protected Landmark in Seattle

Today, we honored Mount Zion Baptist Church and its contributions to Seattle by transmitting legislation asking the City Council to formally recognize it as a protected landmark.

Landmark status is reserved for locations in our City that have been of exceptional value to social, political, architectural or community causes – and in the long history of Mount Zion Baptist Church, it has contributed greatly to all of these and more.

Established as a permanent place of worship in 1920, Mount Zion Baptist Church played a prominent role in Seattle’s Civil Rights movement and has been a center of life for Seattle’s African American community. A number of its constituents were close friends and contemporaries of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including Reverend Samuel B. McKinney and Reverend Ralph Abernathy. Rev. McKinney, a prominent Civil Rights leader in his own right, was the driving force behind bringing Dr. King to Seattle in November 1961 for his first and only visit to our City.

In the 1960s and 1970, the church also provided a meeting place for the Black Panther movement in Seattle.

Mount Zion Baptist Church has had as members of its congregation a number of influential Seattle leaders. Former Mayor Norm Rice as well as Ron Sims, who served not only as the Mayor of Seattle and King County Executive, but also Deputy Secretary of the Unites States Department of Urban and Housing Development under President Barack Obama, were both congregants of Mount Zion.

 

Today, Mount Zion remains as a center of life in a neighborhood deeply shaped and influenced by its African American residents. Commemorating Mount Zion Baptist Church as a landmark in the Central District reinforces the history of this neighborhood as a place where many African American families first put down roots in Seattle and found a place to call home. Along with the Northwest African American Museum, the Mount Zion Baptist Church will exist as a testament to the Central District’s important place in the history of the African American community in Seattle.

The church itself owes much of its current prominence to the late Rev. Samuel B. McKinney, who was pastor there for over 40 years. Beyond bringing spiritual guidance to the congregation, Rev. McKinney also created a lasting vision for Mount Zion as an architectural destination.

The Rev. Samuel B. McKinney himself passed away just last month at 91. We can think of no better way to honor his memory and the contributions of the Mount Zion Baptist Church to the African American community in our City than to commemorate this institution in our civic lifer as a permanent landmark in Seattle.