The First Rosa

A Film Documentary

The name of civil-rights champion Dr. Rosa Parks is well known to history. But there was another Rosa, “a black teacher with liberating dreams,” with an inspiring story of her own. “The First Rosa”, produced by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, is a film that will enlighten the Church to Dr. Rosa J. Young’s remarkable history as a pioneer Lutheran educator and missionary who, alongside the Rev. Nils J. Bakke, planted dozens of historically black Lutheran schools and chapels in the American South. See the long odds they faced—struggles with strident critics, the Ku Klux Klan, even an invasion of boll weevils—before emerging with a glorious victory.

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‘The First Rosa’

The First Rosa

The LCMS produced “The First Rosa” film about Rosa J. Young, the “Mother of Black Lutheranism in Central Alabama.” A complimentary DVD copy of the film was sent to each LCMS congregation, and accompanying resources are available.

 Bible studies

 Sunday school lessons

 Student-teacher devotions

Photo Galleries

Rosa J. Young

Browse a collection of historic photos of Rosa and some of the churches and schools she helped plant. Photos courtesy of Concordia Historical Institute.

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Browse a behind-the scenes collection of photos from the film sets of "The First Rosa" in Selma, Ala.

 View filming gallery

Rosa J. Young history

Rosa J. Young was awarded an honorary doctorate by Concordia Theological Seminary during their commencement service in May 1961. She was both the first woman and the first African-American to be honored in this way by the Lutheran Church.

Young led a life of service, accomplished so much to the Glory of God, and enabled others to do the same, including the following:

• She taught more than 2,000 students, impacting their lives forever with her faith and her belief in the importance of education, at a time when education for children of sharecroppers was limited.

• Many of her students entered the Holy Ministry or became parochial school teachers at her urging, impacting many others with their fidelity to her vision.

• She wrote her autobiography, Light in the Dark Belt, bringing her life story to the reader.

• She was influential in the founding of the Alabama Lutheran Academy and College in Selma, Ala., aimed at training students to become teachers and preparing young men to continue their education at seminary.

• That educational institution, known as Concordia College Alabama, Selma, Ala., provided affordable education to young men and women from its founding in 1922 until its closure in 2018.

• Many of her students moved north during the Great Migration and founded churches, which extended her ministry throughout the country.

Learn more

The Encyclopedia of Alabama provides an overview of Rosa J. Young’s history and ministry.



Check back for more resources as they become available.



Lutheran Church Extension Fund is proud to be a corporate sponsor of The First Rosa
Lutheran Church Extension Fund is proud to be a corporate sponsor of “The First Rosa”


Please contact the LCMS Church Information Center for more information about “The First Rosa.”


Rosa Young books

Concordia Publishing House offers two books about Rosa J. Young:


Recent News

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Has Rosa inspired you?

Rosa Young inspired countless young people to consider and pursue vocations in church work.

If her story has guided you in the same way, or if you know someone who would make a good church worker, please contact us.

Tell me more about becoming a professional church worker

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