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History of The Abyssinian Baptist Church

Our history conveys a rich legacy of leadership and faith, our activist commitment to serving the needs of the local and global community and a dedication to our mission of winning more souls for Christ.

The Powell Years


On December 30, 1908, in Abyssinian’s 100th anniversary year, the Rev. Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. became Abyssinian’s 17th pastor. Powell ushered in a new era in the church’s history, known as “The Powell Years.’’

A Social Gospel

Adam-Clayton-Powell-at-the-River-JordanReverend Powell devoted the first 12 years of his pastorate to the spiritual development and reorganization of the church, while promoting the idea of a model church in Harlem that would respond to the religious and social needs of African Americans. His “social gospel” blended social activism with spiritual leadership and set the tone for the church’s ongoing mission of community service. Powell also was an early member of the NAACP, a colleague of Booker T. Washington, and of W.E.B. DuBois, and a participant in many advocacy activities of the Progressive Era.Adam-Clayton-Powell-in-Egypt