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Southern Baptists elect 1st black leader

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June 3, 2012: Rev. Fred Luter, pastor of the Franklin Ave. Baptist Church, delivers a sermon during Sunday Services at the Church in New Orleans.AP

The Southern Baptist Convention has elected its first African-American leader.

The Rev. Fred Luter Jr. was elected president of the nation's largest Protestant denomination on Tuesday at its annual meeting. He is the pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

The historic move comes as the denomination tries to expand its appeal beyond its traditional white Southern base. Membership and baptisms have been generally declining in recent years.

The Nashville, Tennessee-based denomination was formed before the Civil War in a split with northern Baptists over slavery and had reputation over much of the last century for supporting segregation.

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