It may actually be more accurate to say that the church was the institution, rather than “an institution,” that provided African Americans with mutual support and a “comfortable place” in the time between emancipation and 1960. The black church was probably the most important institution in the black community during this time.
Beginning in the days right after the Civil War, the black church was important. Blacks from the Northern churches like the African Methodist Episcopalian church came to the South to help freed slaves. They were instrumental in building an educational system and bringing literacy to the freed slaves. The black church then became a homegrown Southern institution. Black churches provided African Americans with everything from moral and spiritual support to material support in times of need. They were the institution that was central to the typical community of African Americans in the South.
The black church, then, was the most important institution in the black community. It did more than any other to provide African Americans with a “comfortable place” where they could be away from whites and in control of their own doings. It also allowed them to engage in mutual support for one another in a systematic and organized way.