The Abyssinian Baptist Church was the first African American Baptist congregation in the state of New York and the fourth in the nation. It was founded in 1808 by members of the First Baptist Church who took issue with the racially segregated seating arrangements maintained by the congregation. The dissenting parishioners, under the leadership of a small party of seamen from Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia), began holding services of their own. In tribute to the seamen, the congregation called itself the Abyssinian Baptist Church.
The original church stood on what is now Worth Street in the heart of the Greenwich Village community then known as Little Africa. As the bulk of New York’s African American population moved northward, so did the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Construction on the present Harlem location began in 1922 under Pastor Adam Clayton Powell Sr. (1865-1953), who was instrumental in weaving the Abyssinian Baptist Church into community life. During his mini