Historic photo of Bethel AME Church, a large, Romanesque-style cathedral, amid demolition. A crane hovers over the building, and a few construction workers stand in front.

Pittsburgh’s oldest Black church was demolished as ‘blight’ in the 1950s Lower Hill. Today, members seek justice.

As conversations heat up over development plans for the Lower Hill District, one voice is drawing religious history into the spotlight. Bethel AME Church, founded in 1808, was once a thriving congregation and center of learning and social activism. As part of the Lower Hill redevelopment project of the 1950s, the City of Pittsburgh seized the church by eminent domain and demolished it, despite eminent domain laws excluding churches from their reach.