Before Harlem: The Abyssinian Baptist Church in Greenwich Village, 1854-1903
Founded in 1808 in Lower Manhattan, the Abyssinian Baptist Church is closely identified with Harlem, due to the dynamic leadership of its pastors Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., who led the building of the 138th Street church in 1923, and of his son Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. who as pastor simultaneously represented Harlem in Congress from 1945 to 1970. But Harlem is the fourth location for the congregation. Its second location was in Greenwich Village, where it first occupied rented spaces. In 1860 the congregation found a home in a church building on Waverly Place that it purchased in 1863, weeks before the Draft Riots. By the time the congregation moved in 1903, it had grown to become a wealthy and sizable congregation, and a significant actor in New York’s African American religious and cultural life. While in Greenwich Village, the church hosted great African American luminaires of the day and took prominent roles in some of the leading civil rights issues of the time. This foundation which would eventually lead to its later prominence in Harlem.
Kevin McGruder, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of History at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He joined the Abyssinian Baptist Church in 1987, and was among the founders of the Abyssinian Development Corporation. He also served as Assistant Church Clerk, and led the Archives and History Ministry for many years. He is a co-author of Witness: Two Hundred Years of African -American Faith and Practice at the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem, New York (2015), and author of Race and Real Estate Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem, 1890-1920 (2015) and Philip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem (2021). He has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Harvard University, an M.B.A. in Real Estate Finance from Columbia University, and a doctorate in U.S. History from the City University of New York.
- Wednesday, March 29, 2023
- 6:00 pm
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
6:00pm – 7:15pm ET