The development of First African Baptist Church began through the efforts of George Liele in Savannah, Georgia. What was once a British military strong hold became the setting for the foundation of the African American Baptist community in the Antebellum South. As discussed, Liele left for Jamaica with the withdrawal of the British Army, which begs the question: what happened to those left behind? Who would tend to the spiritual well-being of the African American Baptist converts who were not fortunate enough to abscond from the American South? The answer came from a familiar face of Georgian religious life in the form of Andrew Bryan.
Andrew Bryan was born into enslavement in Goose Creek, South Carolina on the Brampton Plantation. Like Liele and many other enslaved Africans of the Southern colonies, Bryan’s enslaver was English and beholding to the British Crown. As a result, at a young age Bryan became involved with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), a British organization devoted to missionary work of the Anglican Church. It is not clear if Bryan was ever a devoted member of the Anglican church, however it is clear that through the SPG he began the work that eventually led him to becoming a religious leader for African Americans in the deep South. Through his involvement with the SPG, Bryan traveled throughout the South preaching to the enslaved and gaining a reputation as a promising orator and counselor. His path would eventually cross with Liele’s as he grew in the Gospel. In the late 1700s, a relationship formed between the two and they began working in tandem as preachers, however this did not last long before Liele fled to Jamaica.
After Liele and the British Army’s departure, Bryan continued preaching but he and his flock were forced to find their own spiritual path. Much of the preaching that was done by Bryan was monitored by overseers outside of church walls, perhaps in a clearing or off to the side of a church building. That is to say, the conditions of Bryan’s work as a spiritual leader was like that of any other captive African in the antebellum South: very little comforts, save for the grace of the Word and even that was heavily supervised and at times tailored to project a particular message that had been previously approved. Religious meetings among Africans without the presence of overseers were known to be war-rooms of rebellions to come; therefore the work of Bryan was always monitored. Because of this, Bryan and his flock were often harassed, arrested and beaten, and at times the violence from Whites led to torture or death. In one particular instance, Andrew Bryan and another man named Sampson were arrested on the charge of conspiracy for preaching the Word. However, Andrew Bryan had been given permission to preach by his handler Johnathan Bryan. Appropriately, Johnathan went to court on the behalf of both Andrew and Sampson, and they were later released.
After this incident, Andrew continued his work with the church and again started drawing large flocks on Sunday mornings. The reason why Bryan was so successful in his efforts was because of the support of white religious leaders and land owners; through their backing and Bryan’s efforts as a preacher, the First Bryan Baptist Church was founded. To elaborate, early in 1788, Andrew’s flock had grown to the point that the congregation needed a building to accommodate the need. However, an enslaved person owning anything in the antebellum South but the breathe they breathed was extremely difficult, but not impossible. In the same year, Johnathan Bryan’s health was failing and he eventually succumbed to death. Naturally, all of Johnathan’s property went to his next of kin William Bryan (son), but Andrew was bequeathed enough money to buy his freedom from William with ample left over to procure the land and materials that he would need to build a church of his own. Further, he was given the blessing of other Baptist preachers he had worked with to build his congregation; one letter states: “This is to certify, that the Ethiopian church of Jesus Christ at Savannah, have called their beloved Andrew to the work of the ministry. We have examined into his qualifications, and believing it to be the will of the great head of the church, we have appointed him to preach the Gospel, and to administer the ordinances, as God in his providence may call.”
1793 is perhaps this most appropriate founding year of the First Bryan Baptist Church. Though the ground work for the Church was laid more than a decade earlier with Bryan’s efforts, 1793 marked the year that the land was purchased and construction began. By the early 19th century, between 1802 and 1805, construction was complete and the First Bryan Baptist Church began to solidify alliances with other congregations of Savannah, namely: the First African Baptist Church, the Savannah Baptist Church and Newington Baptist Church. The collective was called the Savannah River Baptist Association. Moreover, apart from the collective, Bryan’s work as a Baptist preacher was so popular among the enslaved in Savannah that he eventually was forced to build a second and third African Baptist church to accommodate the growth.
The Bryan African Baptist Church has a unique position in African American religious history given the circumstances of its founding. The Antebellum South can be counted as one of the worse places to be for people of African descent, historically speaking, yet many African Americans were able to carve out a sense of spiritual being and belonging despite this. Bryan was not able to abscond with the British as Liele was; therefore, he and his flock were always extremely exposed in slave-holding-Georgia. This could not have been an easy task. Nevertheless, Andrew Bryan not only built a church in the heart of Dixie, he also developed a network of religious institutions devoted to the spiritual uplift of Africans in the antebellum South. This legacy has remained solid for over two centuries and is currently a part of the Historical Register of Historical Places.
 John W. Davis. “George Liele and Andrew Bryan, Pioneer Negro Baptist Preachers.” The Journal of Negro History, 3 (2), 123-124.
 Sandy Dwayne Martin. "Andrew Bryan (1737-1812)". (Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press).
 Walter H. Brooks. "The Evolution of the Negro Baptist Church." The Journal of Negro History 7, no. 1 (1922): 15-17.
 John W. Davis. “George Liele and Andrew Bryan, Pioneer Negro Baptist Preachers.” The Journal of Negro History, 3 (2), 124. Bryan began preaching full time within a year of Liele Departure to Jamaica.
 Alan Gallay. The Formation of a Planter Elite: Jonathan Bryan and the Southern Colonial Frontier. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007), 52.
 Simms, James Meriles. The First Colored Baptist Church in North America: Constituted at Savannah, Georgia, January 20, AD 1788. With Biographical Sketches of the Pastors. JB Lippincott Company, 1888, 20-22.
 John W. Davis. “George Liele and Andrew Bryan, Pioneer Negro Baptist Preachers.” The Journal of Negro History, 3 (2), 124. “When Goerge Liele was preaching in and near Savannah, he did not suffer from such molestation, because the British then ruled the country, but Andrew Bryan began his work under different conditions about the time when Georgia became independent.”
 Alan Gallay. The Formation of a Planter Elite: Jonathan Bryan and the Southern Colonial Frontier. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007), 53-54. David S. Williams. From Mounds to Megachurches: Georgia’s Religious Heritage. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008), 36. The property was purchased by William himself for Andrew and his family to live on and to build the church.
 John W. Davis. “George Liele and Andrew Bryan, Pioneer Negro Baptist Preachers.” The Journal of Negro History, 3 (2), 126. Letter written by Abraham Marshall, Baptist pastor and a colleague of the Bryans.
 Ibid., 125.
 James Meriles Simms. The First Colored Baptist Church in North America: Constituted at Savannah, Georgia, January 20, AD 1788. With Biographical Sketches of the Pastors. (JB Lippincott Company, 1888), 55-56.
 John W. Davis. “George Liele and Andrew Bryan, Pioneer Negro Baptist Preachers.” The Journal of Negro History, 3 (2), 127.
 Ibid., 127. There were some set-backs over the years. For example, the growth of Bryan’s church slowed during the 1830s because of fear caused by Nat Turners rebellion.