Father Neill's Church

St. Augustine's Episcopal Church of Oakland (529 29th Street) is one of the oldest Episcopal churches in Oakland. It was founded on land donated by Reverend Dr. John Bakewell in 1892, and consecrated on Easter Sunday of 1893. It was also formerly known as the Trinity Church.

It became known as “Father Neil's church”, due to Father Earl A. Neil being the rector at the time in 1967. After meetings with Huey Newton during Newton's incarceration, Neil became involved with the Black Panther Party. The church also became a main location for meetings, particularly to discuss programs. In January 1969, the church served as the host location for the Black Panther Party's Free Breakfast for Children Program. It was organized by Ruth Beckford, an Oakland dancer, choreographer, and friend of LaVerne Anderson (Huey Newton's girlfriend at the time).

According to Neil, the church became a grand location for many other programs, including health clinics, food and clothing distribution, prison visitations. At the same time, it also became a location for the many funerals of Black Panthers such as Bobby Hutton, George Jackson, and even Huey Newton's own funeral.

After Neil left the church in 1974 – to move to New York for another position with the Episcopal Church – Trinity Church merged with St. Augustine's (on 27th and West), mixing parishes and renaming it “St. Augustine's Episcopal Church”. In 1979, the church also became an Oakland landmark.

Cite this Page:

Dajanae Barrows, “Father Neill's Church,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed December 14, 2017, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/26.
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