The minister and missionary E. K. Love was a prominent Baptist leader and writer in nineteenth-century Georgia. Dedicated to fighting racism, Love was also a political activist whose efforts in Savannah foreshadowed the civil rights movement.
Emmanuel King Love was born into slavery on July 27, 1850, in Perry County, Alabama, and was educated privately. Having accepted the call to ministry in 1868, Love attained a bachelor’s degree from the Augusta Institute (later Morehouse College) in 1877. He served as pastor of a number of churches, including the historic First African Baptist Church in Savannah from 1885 to 1900.
A denominational leader, Love headed the black Georgia Baptist State Convention, the Baptist Foreign Mission Convention (in 1889, 1890, 1891, and 1893), and the National Baptist Convention. In addition, Love served as a missionary to black Georgians, representing predominantly white, northern Baptist societies. He edited the Baptist Truth and the Centennial Record and was the associate editor of the Georgia Sentinel, all of which were black Baptist newspapers. He also wrote History of the First African Baptist Church (1888) and helped to establish what would become Savannah State College (later Savannah State University).
A Republican activist, Love supported temperance, fought disenfranchisement, and vigorously opposed discrimination and Jim Crow segregation in all areas of public life. There is evidence that he was subjected to physical abuse because he refused segregated train seating. In the late 1890s Love supported the establishment of an independent African American Baptist national publishing house, and before his sudden death on April 24, 1900, he helped to establish Savannah’s first privately owned black bank.