Mansfield Tyler was a self-educated slave and Baptist minister who founded Lowndesboro School and the Lowndesboro Baptist Church for African Americans in the central Alabama region of Lowndes County shortly after the Civil War. Tyler was born a slave near Augusta, Georgia, in 1826 and was taken by his owner, Reverend Jacob White, to Alabama in 1854. There, he found his calling to preach the Baptist ministry and unite people with God through baptism.
As a slave during the early part of his ministry, he was not allowed to practice his religion subject to harsh penalty. He learned to read by chance and moved to Lowndesboro in 1867, two years after the war ended, where he organized its first Baptist church for African Americans. In 1868 Tyler also helped organize the Alabama Colored Baptist Church Convention, which he served as president for 10 years. On June 27, 1868, he was ordained to the work of the gospel ministry and subsequently baptized thousands of persons into the Lowndesboro church. In about 1869, Tyler also organized a Baptist Church at Whitehall, where he baptized 500 people.
From 1870 until 1872, Tyler served as a representative in the Alabama House of Representatives, among the first African Americans to do so. One of his chief concerns in this role was the building of a strong public education system.
In 1868, the Town of Lowndesboro received an award from the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Southern Aid Society to purchase the church that Tyler and Daniel Alexander had built. In 1878 Tyler deeded land for the first African American Missionary Church. He was the founder and minister of what became the First Baptist Church of Lowndesboro in 1880. The church was used as the Lowndesboro School for African American children in 1883.
Tyler was also one of the originators and chairman of the board of Selma University. The school conferred an honorary doctorate on him in 1890. The board also established the Tyler Medal in his honor. He was known for encouraging African Americans not only to be religious but to also get an education and acquire property.