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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 Beginnings of Abyssinian


A group of African Americans (12 women and 4 men) who refused to accept segregated seating in the First Baptist Church of New York City formed The Abyssinian Baptist Church in lower Manhattan. The church name was inspired by the ancient name of Ethiopia, Abyssinia.

Reverend Thomas Paul, an African American minister from Boston, aided the new congregation in becoming organized as the first African-American Baptist church in New York state and in purchasing its first church home. The Rev. John VanVessler became Abyssinian’s first pastor.


Our First Home

Abyssinian bought property at 40 Worth Street and was located there until 1854. After the property was sold, the church moved to Broadway Tabernacle, then to buildings on Thompson and Spring Streets.

Reverend-Sampson-WhiteThe Reverends Sigel, Benjamin Paul, James Hayborn, Thomson, Loomis, Samson White, Moore, John T. Raymond (served twice), Thomas Henderson and Dutton succeeded Rev. VanVessler.