Asbury United Methodist Church was founded in June 1866 as the first African-American church in Holly Springs. It is named after the abolitionist William Asbury. One of the earliest freedoms the former slaves of Holly Springs earned was the right to attend the church of their own choosing, and there was a great need for churches dedicated to the nearly 1,075 former slaves living in Holly Springs.
Asbury began with 27 members, led by the Reverend Moses Adams. The earliest members met in an old home on Gholson Avenue, where the Marshall County Library is located today. Later in 1866 the church moved to the present location on College Avenue, in another old house. By 1869 there were 443 members, and the first dedicated church building was constructed in 1870. The present church building was built in 1915.
Asbury United Methodist Church was a beacon of light during the Jim Crow and segregation era in Holly Springs, and played a prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement of north Mississippi. Former and current members of the church have included Hiram Revels, the first African-American United States Senator, Eddie L. Smith Jr., the first African-American mayor of Holly Springs, Dr. David Beckley, current president of Rust College, Kelvin Buck, current mayor of Holly Springs, and David “Fox” Caldwell, owner of Aikei Pros Records Shop.
Perhaps the most lasting contribution of Asbury United Methodist Church was its role in the founding of Shaw University, which later became known as Rust College, one of the most important historically-black colleges in the South. Rust College’s first students met in the basement of Asbury Church until more permanent school buildings could be built.